Mr. CRUZ. Madam President, I rise today in opposition to ObamaCare. I rise today in an effort to speak for 26 million Texans and for 300 million Americans.
All across this country Americans are suffering because of ObamaCare. ObamaCare isn't working. Yet fundamentally there are politicians in this body who are not listening to the people. They are not listening to the concerns of their constituents, they are not listening to the jobs lost or the people forced into part-time work, to the people losing their health insurance, to the people who are struggling.
I also say at the outset that I am particularly honored to be standing side by side with my friend and colleague Senator Mike Lee from Utah. Senator Lee has shown visionary leadership in standing and taking the mantle of leading the effort to defund ObamaCare and to challenge this train wreck of a law, and Senator Lee has been repaid at times with vilification from official Washington.
In my judgment there is no Senator in this body, Republican or Democrat, who is more principled, who is more dedicated, who is more fearless and willing to fight for the principles that make this Nation great than is Senator Mike Lee. It is a singular privilege to serve with him and to stand side by side with him and so many others in this body, and, even more importantly, so many millions of Americans all across this country.
There is a problem in Washington, and the problem is bigger than a continuing resolution. It is bigger than ObamaCare. It is even bigger than the budget. The most fundamental problem and the frustration is that the men and women in Washington aren't listening. If you talk to the man and woman on the street, that is the message you hear over and over again: Why don't they listen to me? Why don't they hear what we have to say? They aren't listening to the millions of people, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, across the spectrum who say our elected officials get to Washington and they stop listening to the people.
We just had a 6-week recess during August where a substantial percentage of Members of Congress chose not to hold townhalls during the 6 weeks we had to be back in our home States, not even to give their constituents a chance to say their views, because it is very easy when those of us who are in elected office have been here for a long time to believe Washington knows better; to believe that all the solutions are found in Washington, DC, and the rest of the country is better--as they say of small children--seen but not heard.
We need millions of people to get an answer. Millions of people are asking for accountability, for responsibility, for truth from their elected officials, truth about how ObamaCare is failing the men and women of America. It is time, quite simply, to make DC listen. That is a point I intend to make over and over, because it is fundamentally what we are trying to do. We are trying to gather the American people to make DC listen.
The whole debate we are having is not over strategy. It is not about process. It is not about procedure. If you read the papers it looks like it is. If you read the papers it is all sorts of confusing cloture on the motions to the what-the, to the which-the. To anyone outside of DC, their eyes glaze over. Even to anyone in Washington, DC, their eyes glaze over.
This is also not about pollsters. It is not about pundits or consultants or those who are making money back and forth on the political process. They have always been with us, and I am confident they will remain with us for all time. The problem is DC is not listening. The problem is our elected leaders are not listening to their constituents.
Everyone in America understands ObamaCare is destroying jobs. It is driving up health care costs. It is killing health benefits. It is shattering the economy. All across the country in all 50 States--it doesn't matter what State you go to, you can go to any State in the Union, it doesn't matter if you are talking to Republicans or Democrats or Independents or Libertarians--Americans understand this thing is not working.
Yet Washington is pretending not to know. Washington is pretending to have no awareness. Instead we have politicians giving speeches about how wonderful ObamaCare is. At the same time they go to the President and ask for an exemption from ObamaCare for Members of Congress.
If ObamaCare is so wonderful, why is it that its loudest advocates don't want to be subject to it? I will confess that is a very difficult one to figure out.
DC is using a rigged process to keep ObamaCare funded, to keep this job-killing bill funded. What they want to do fundamentally is ignore the men and women of America and keep up with business as usual. People wonder why Congress has such low approval ratings. I remember when all 100 of us were in the historic Senate Chamber for a bipartisan meeting. Multiple Senators stood and expressed frustration with the low approval ratings that Congress has. It varies--sometimes, 10, 12, 14 percent--but it is always abysmal.
Some suggested the reason was that we are not legislating enough. We just need to pass some more laws and the American people will be happy. I have to admit, that does not comport with just about anything I have ever heard in the State of Texas. That doesn't comport with anything I have ever heard from constituents. I am going to suggest the most fundamental reason Congress remains in the low teens in approval ratings is because Congress is not listening to the American people.
Every poll that has been done for years, when we ask the American people what is their top priority, the answer is consistently jobs and the economy--over and over, jobs and the economy. That is national. That is in your State, my State. That is in all 50 States. Jobs and the economy is the answer you get. It is also not partisan. You can ask Republicans, ask Democrats, you can ask Independents. They say we need jobs, we need economic growth back.
Yet I will tell you, Madam President--you and I have both served in this institution some 9 months, not very long, but in the time we have been here we have spent virtually zero time even talking about jobs and the economy. It doesn't make the agenda. It apparently is not important enough for this body's time. We spent 6 weeks talking about guns, talking about taking away law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights, and we spend virtually no time talking about fundamental tax reform, about regulatory reform, about getting the economy going. And politicians wonder why it is that Congress is held in such low esteem. This is unfortunately a bipartisan issue, on both sides.
We need to do a better job of listening to the people. If the top priority of the American people is jobs and the economy, I am going to suggest the top priority of Congress should be jobs and the economy.
Madam President, you and I should both be scratching our heads, trying to think about a time when we weren't talking about jobs and the economy because, I tell you, we certainly have not gotten it taken care of yet. The American people are frustrated because their elected officials do not listen.
When we are home on the campaign trail, we say we listen. Yet something about this Senate floor, something about Washington, DC--I don't know if it is the water, something in the air, the cherry blossoms, but people get here and they stop listening to the American people.
As I traveled throughout the State of Texas--I spent the month of August and the beginning of September traveling virtually every day on the road throughout Texas and across the country listening, hearing the stories. The American people are hurting. This is a difficult time. The very rich, they are doing fine. In fact, they are doing better under President Obama than they were before. But hard-working American families are struggling and their life has become harder and harder and harder.
ObamaCare is the biggest job killer in this country. The American people want to stop this madness, and so do I. In Washington, we pass million-dollar bills, billion-dollar bills no one has ever read, often without even voting on them. We call it unanimous consent. It is only unanimous because they don't let anyone know.
In Washington, we spend $2 trillion more than last year and then tell voters we saved money. The system is deliberately designed to hide what we are actually doing.
In this debate right now over ObamaCare and the continuing resolution, voting to pass bills is called procedure, as if it doesn't matter. We pretend it doesn't matter. It does matter. Our leaders right now demand approval for bills before they are amended: Everyone come to the floor, vote for the bill. Then we will amend it to make it say the opposite of what it says right now, but you have already voted so don't worry about it. We are told to agree to the bills without even knowing what the final product will be and that is what is happening right now. Our leaders in both parties are asking us to support a bill, to cut off debate on a bill without even knowing what is in it.
It is as the former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi once observed: Pass it to find out what is in it. That is how Washington does business.
Let me tell you how this is likely to unfold. Senate majority leader Harry Reid has said he intends to offer an amendment to determine the future of our health care system
and based on the public press reports--and I would note you have to rely on the public press reports because this body doesn't know, but based on the public press reports, that amendment is going to fully fund ObamaCare. It is going to strip the language the House of Representatives passed to defund ObamaCare and listen to the American people.
The central vote the Senate will take on this fight will not occur today and it will not occur tomorrow. The first vote we are going to take on this is a vote on what is called cloture on the motion to proceed. Very few people not on this floor have any idea what that means and even, I suspect, a fair number of people on this floor are not quite sure what that means. That will simply be a vote whether to take up this bill and to begin debating this bill. I expect that vote to pass overwhelmingly, if not unanimously. Everyone agrees we ought to take this up, we ought to start this conversation.
The next vote we take will occur on Friday or Saturday and it will be on what is called cloture on the bill. That is the vote that matters. Cloture on the bill, the vote Friday or Saturday, is the vote that matters.
Why is that? Because that vote is subject to a 60-vote threshold. If Republicans vote with Democrats, then this body will cut off debate on the bill. Cloture is simply cutting off debate. It is saying we are not going to talk about it anymore, we are silencing the voice of the Senate, we are silencing the voice of the people, and we are cutting off debate.
Why does that matter? Because once cloture is invoked, the rules of the Senate allow the majority leader to introduce the amendment to fund ObamaCare and then to have it pass with just 51 votes, not 60--51. As the Presiding Officer is well aware, there are more than 51 Democrats in this body. Postcloture, after this body has voted to cut off debate, the Democrats can vote on a straight party-line vote to fund ObamaCare. Madam President, I am going to let you in on a dirty little secret. When that happens, every Republican, if we get to that point, will vote against it and every Republican will then go home to his or her State and say: Look, I voted against ObamaCare.
That is actually the preferred outcome, to have a vote but yet to have the result be business as usual continue in Washington. It is a little bit akin to the World Wrestling Federation, wrestling matches where it is all rigged. The outcome is predetermined. They know in advance who is going to win and lose and it is all for show. There are some Members of this body, if we could have 100 show votes, saying here is what we are for, but mind you, none of them are actually going to change the law, none of them are actually going to occur, none of them are going to make one iota of difference to the American people because they will never become law, but we will get to vote over and over again in proving how committed we are to principle A, B, C, D or E, that curiously would make a significant number of Senators happy.
Our constituents deserve more--no more fake fights, no more hiding our votes, no more games, no more trying to fool the American people. We need to make DC listen--make DC listen. I want to stand and fight for the more than 1.6 million Americans who signed a national petition against ObamaCare and to the millions more who did not because they were told by a politician it is not possible--don't even try to fight because it is not possible.
I am reminded of a children's story. My wife Heidi and I are blessed to have two little girls, Caroline and Catherine, ages 5 and 2, and one of their favorite children's stories, actually from when I was a kid, is ``The Little Engine That Could''--the train going up that said over and over again, ``I think I can. I think I can.''
I have to say, if we listen to a lot of Members of this body, the message would be simple. That little engine can't. What they say to that train when it starts at the bottom of the hill is, no, you can't.
I think I can. I think I can.
No, you can't. No, you can't. We can't win. You can't stop ObamaCare. It cannot be done. It is impossible. There is nothing we can do.
Are millions of Americans out of work? Yes. Are millions of Americans struggling? Yes. Are millions of Americans seeing their health insurance premiums skyrocket? Yes. Are millions of Americans at risk of losing their health insurance because of ObamaCare? Yes.
But Washington tells our constituents: No, no, never mind. It can't be done. It cannot be done. It is impossible. The rules of Washington say this cannot be done.
And we wonder why this body has such low approval among the people. When we go out and tell the American people it cannot be done, there is nothing that can be done to stop ObamaCare, what we are saying is we are not willing to do it. We are not willing to stand and fight.
We are willing to give speeches. Oh, yes, if we want to have a speech contest, we can line up and fall over backward who can give the best speech against ObamaCare. But when it comes to actually standing and fighting, when it comes to actually having the opportunity to listen to the American people, an awful lot of Members of this body, at least so far, have not shown up to battle.
There are a lot of folks in the Washington establishment who do not want to hear from us. The chattering class is quick to discipline anyone who refuses to blindly fall in line. That is the way Washington plays. There are rules. We are not supposed to speak for the people. There is a way things are done in Washington and make no mistake, DC depends upon Americans not paying attention.
They know most Americans are quite reasonably working too hard to provide for their family. They are too busy spending time with their friends and family. They are too busy working to try to make sure their family is provided for. They are going to church. They are dealing with the day-to-day burdens of life. You know what they have learned? The American people have learned when we get involved, even then it seems as though Washington politicians rarely listen.
I believe that can change. I am standing here today to salute, to celebrate the American democratic system. I am standing here today to suggest that if Senators listen to their constituents, if we listen to the American people, the vote would be 100 to 0 to defund ObamaCare.
Even those Senators who voted for it who might have believed it would work. Many of us would have disagreed. Had I been here, not surprisingly, I would have voted against ObamaCare 3 1/2 years ago. A number of Members in this body voted in favor of it. Regardless of how Members voted 3 1/2 years ago, one of the great virtues of life is learning, looking at the evidence, looking at the facts, and seeing when something is not working.
Look at the labor unions. Three-and-a-half years ago the labor unions were enthusiastically supporting ObamaCare. Why? Because they heard the promises. They heard it was going to work, and that it would be a bonanza for all. They believed the promises, and that is understandable. Yet one of the things we have seen this year is one labor union after another after another saying: Whoa. This thing isn't working. This thing is hurting us. This thing is hurting our Members.
(Mr. MANCHIN assumed the Chair.)
By the way, the people whom it is hurting are hard-working men and women and hard-working American families. They are the ones getting hammered.
James Huff, the president of the Teamsters, has said ObamaCare is destroying the 40-hour workweek. It is destroying the backbone of the American middle class. That is not me saying that, that is not any politician from Washington saying that, that is the Teamsters.
We should submit the question to the American people: Do the American people want to destroy the 40-hour workweek that is the backbone of the American middle class? That is not a close question. People talk about how we are a 50-50 Nation and how there is a tight partisan divide. I don't believe it. I think on questions such as that there is an overwhelming majority of Americans who say of course we should not destroy the 40-hour workweek. Of course we shouldn't break the backbone of the American middle class.
If more politicians listened to the people, we would respond and avert this train wreck. Yet the politicians of Washington tell us: Don't worry about it. ObamaCare is going to be peachy keen. The Senate is too busy to do anything to avert this train wreck.
Mind you, the Senate is not too busy to exempt ourselves from it. We know enough to say: We don't want to be a part of this thing. The American people know it can't be done. Nothing can be done. We need to accept it.
Americans have never been people who accept failure. Americans have never been people who accept impossibility. If we look to a ragtag bunch of colonists in the 18th century, the idea that we would stand up to Great Britain, the British Army--the most mighty military force on the face of the planet--was impossible. It can't be done. I guarantee that all of the pundits we see going on TV and intoning in deep baritone voices: This cannot be done--if we were back in the 18th century, they would be writing messages in dark ink and sending it by carrier pigeon, saying: This cannot be done. You can't stand up to the British Army. It can't be done. It is impossible. Accept your subjugation. Accept your taxation without representation. Accept that this is impossible.
If we fast forward to the Civil War--a time of enormous pain, anguish, and bloodshed in the United States--there were a lot of voices then who said the Union cannot be saved. It cannot be done. Accept defeat. I suspect those same pundits, had they been around in the mid-19th century, would have written the same columns: This cannot be done.
If we go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany--look, we saw it in Britain. Neville Chamberlain told the British people: Accept the Nazis. Yes, they will dominate the continent of Europe, but that is not our problem. Let's appease them. Why? Because it can't be done. We cannot possibly stand against them.
In America there were voices who listened to that; I suspect the same pundits who said it couldn't be done. If this had happened in the 1940s, we would have been listening to them. Even then they would have made television. They would have gotten beyond the carrier pigeons and letters and they would have been on TV saying: You cannot defeat the Germans.
If we go to the late 1960s when a President, John F. Kennedy, told this country: We are going to send a man to the Moon--when John F. Kennedy told this country we are going to send a man to the Moon, there were a lot of people who said: It cannot be done. It is impossible. It cannot be done. Yet John F. Kennedy had the vision to say Americans can do things--whatever we set our minds to.
If we go to the late 1970s and 1980s, we were in the midst of the Cold War. I remember growing up in the Cold War. I remember being told the Soviet Union cannot be defeated. It cannot be done. We have to accept malaise. We have to accept second-class citizenship. They have a lot of weapons. We cannot possibly stand up to the Soviet Union.
There was a President--a President whom I admired deeply, President Ronald Reagan--who had the temerity to say: What is your strategy on the Cold War? Answer: We win, they lose.
At the time those same Washington founts of wisdom said: It can't be done. No, no, no, we can't win. Winning is a two-dimensional strategy. We need to be much more nuanced than that. We need to push for detente, whatever that means. We need to push for something short of actually winning.
So we get to ObamaCare, and what do all of those voices say? It cannot be stopped. It can't be done. We cannot defund it. By any measure ObamaCare is a far less intimidating foe than those I have discussed, with the possible exception of the Moon. The Moon might be as intimidating as ObamaCare. Yet those same voices of Washington give the same message that they have said over and over and over again, which is the opposite of the message of the little engine that could: No, you can't. It can't be done. No, we can't.
What should we have instead of you know what? We hear echoes from the past battles. We ought to have a vote where we can go to our constituents and say: By golly, we really, really, really dislike ObamaCare. Can we add a couple of more reallys? I want to make it clear that it is
really, really, really.
We wonder why our constituents look at us and say: What on Earth are you doing? Do you actually care that we are losing our jobs? Do you actually care that we can't find a job? Do you care that our small businesses are not growing? Do you care that health insurance premiums for people who are struggling are skyrocketing? Do you care that more and more Americans are losing their health insurance?
We don't need fake fights. We don't need fake votes. We need real change. We need a better economy. We need more jobs. We need more freedom. And what is critical in doing that is stopping ObamaCare because Americans should not have to worry about what Washington is doing to them, what Washington is doing to make their life harder, what Washington is doing to take away their job, what Washington is doing to drive up their health insurance premiums, what Washington is doing to jeopardize the health insurance they have now.
I cannot tell the Presiding Officer how many times across the State of Texas I have had men and women come up to me--some with disabilities and some in wheelchairs--and say: Please, stop this bill. Stop ObamaCare because I don't want to lose my health insurance. It is jeopardizing the health insurance coverage I have now.
We all remember when President Obama told the American people: If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. Now at the time that sounded good. Any of us who liked our health insurance wanted to keep it. We liked that promise. That is the kind of promise we like from our candidates and our officeholders.
Yet as I mentioned earlier, one of the great faculties of higher reason is the ability to learn--the ability to learn from evidence and facts. We have learned that promise did not, in fact, meet reality because the reality is millions of Americans are at risk of losing their health insurance.
A few weeks ago UPS sent a letter to 15,000 employees and it said: We are terminating spousal health insurance because of ObamaCare. Their husbands and wives were told: Sorry, your health insurance is gone. Remember, the promise was: If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. For those 15,000 UPS employees--for their husbands and wives--that promise has been disproved by reality. This body would step up and stop ObamaCare if we did just one thing: if we listened to our constituents. So together that is what we have to do: Make DC listen.
A lot of folks in Washington are angry we are even having this fight. A lot of folks in Washington are angry--it is fascinating how many politicians in Washington think this isn't even worth our time. I will point out, as is usually the case--almost always the case--the Senate floor is largely empty. Everyone's schedules are apparently busy enough that standing and coming together to stop ObamaCare doesn't make it onto the priority list. We ought to have all 100 Senators on this floor around the clock until we come together and stop ObamaCare. If they talked to their constituents, that is what they would like. If they would talk to their constituents, their constituents would say: What possibly do you have to do that is more important than getting the economy moving again and bringing back jobs? What possibly do you have to do that is more important than stopping me from losing my health insurance or stopping me from losing my health care? That is what I hear from my constituents over and over again. I am confident the Presiding Officer hears it from his constituents. Every one of us hears it from our constituents because that is what Americans are saying in all 50 States. We should not have to worry about what the next rule, the next regulation, or the next tax is that is going to be handed down from the DC ruling class.
ObamaCare alone has produced over 20,000 pages of regulation. I am confident the Presiding Officer has not read 20,000 pages of ObamaCare regulations. I can tell the Presiding Officer I have not read 20,000 pages of ObamaCare regulations. I would wager all the money in my bank account there is no Member in this body who has read 20,000 pages of ObamaCare regulation.
Yet what is Washington telling small businesses all across the country? You are bound by 20,000 pages of ObamaCare regulation, and more and more is coming. There is another 3,000 pages added every 6 months. So it is going to keep coming and coming and coming.
I remember doing a tele-townhall several months ago, and a woman who owns a small business asked: How do I comply with all of these regulations? How do I comply with the burdens of ObamaCare? It was quite striking. She said: I don't even know where to start. I will confess that I felt embarrassed because I said: Ma'am, I don't know how to tell you that.
The complexity is so much that it is causing more and more small businesses to stay small--avoid ObamaCare altogether. They can't decipher the rules and regulations so they don't. If they have under 50 employees, they can get out from under it.
I cannot tell you how many small businesses are not hiring right now. If they have 30 or 40 employees, they are not subject to ObamaCare, but if they get the fiftieth employee, that fiftieth employee better be one heck of an employee,
because the instant he or she shows up on the payroll, boom, the entire business is subject to 20,000 pages of regulations and crushing costs.
To the men and women at home today who are out of a job, I point out to you that if it were not for ObamaCare, every small business that has an opportunity to expand right now and is not expanding because of ObamaCare--that is a job you are not able to get.
Do you want to know why the job economy is so bad, why there are so few jobs, why we have the lowest workforce participation in decades in the United States? Small businesses generate two-thirds of all new jobs in the economy, and small businesses have been hammered under ObamaCare unlike ever before.
If we listened to our constituents, we would step forward and act to avert this train wreck. The only way that will happen is if the American people demand it, if together we make DC listen. That is what this fight is about. It is about ensuring that the American people have a voice, ensuring that those who are struggling, those who are without a job, those who are afraid of losing their health insurance--that Washington listens to them, that Washington acts on their needs.
Anyone who wants to know why this body is held in low esteem only has to look out to the empty chairs. If you are out of a job, wondering what the Senate is doing to get our economy moving, to help small businesses create new jobs so you can go to work and provide for your family, the answer is displayed right in front of you.
If you are concerned about the health care for yourself, for your family, if you are seeing more and more people losing their health insurance and you are saying: ``What about my family? What if I lose my health insurance because of ObamaCare?'' and you ask what the Senate is doing to listen to you, the answer, right now, is an empty Chamber.
Our system was based on a profound notion: that sovereignty resides with the American people, that every one of us--sometimes people in the Senate behave as if they have no bosses, as if they are autonomous rulers. And Washington is a little bit of a town that treats the people in Washington--they behave like kings and queens of their own fiefdoms. Yet every one of us has a whole lot of bosses. In my instance, I have 26 million bosses back home in Texas. Who are the 26 million Texans whom I work to represent? Those who supported me and those who did not. It is my job to represent every one of them, to fight for every one of them. The most fundamental problem, bigger than ObamaCare, is the problem that Washington has stopped listening to the American people.
It is quite striking that in discussions about ObamaCare among elected officials, we hear more complaints about ``I don't like all the phone calls I am getting from my constituents'' than we do about ObamaCare. It is apparently an imposition on some Members of this body for their constituents to pick up the phone and express their views. It is viewed as somehow illegitimate. How dare they? Apparently, standing on those steps and taking the oath of office invests 100 people with somehow greater wisdom, greater insight, more brain cells. Our constituents--there is a tendency in this town, particularly as time goes on, to view our constituents as an annoyance.
Today--just today--I have heard multiple Senators complaining: too many phone calls from my constituents. What a remarkable complaint. What a remarkable complaint.
Mr. President, you and I have both worked in the private sector. In the private sector, if your boss picked up the phone and called, I suspect neither you nor I sat at our computer playing Solitaire when our boss picked up the phone and called. Neither one of us said: Boss, I am too busy. Boss, I don't want to listen. You may have some priorities for the business but not me. I know better than you.
None of us did that. Because in the private sector, there is a quick and immediate response. If you tell your boss in the private sector: Hey, boss, my time is too important for you; I don't care about your priorities; I am not going to listen to you, I suspect that will be your last day at that place of employment.
Why is Washington broken? Because you have 100 people, a significant number of whom, on a daily basis, tell their boss, tell their constituents: I am too busy for you.
Don't even bother to call my office because it just ties up my staff. It is annoying. I know better than you do. I know the priorities better than you do.
What a broken system. What a broken system. We work for the people. Why are the people unhappy with Washington? Why are they disgusted with Washington? Because Washington is not listening to them. There is a game instead that is focused on maintaining the status quo. Staying in office--that is what is important because it is apparently very important to be invited to all the right cocktail parties in town. I will confess, I do not go to a whole lot of cocktail parties in town. I am pretty sure you do not either. But there are Members of this body for whom that is very important.
At the end of the day, we do not work for those holding cocktail parties in Washington, DC. We do not work for the intelligentsia in the big cities who write newspaper editorials. We work for the American people. We work for single moms. We work for young people. We work for seniors who are struggling. We work for Hispanics, for African Americans. We work for every American who believes in the American dream.
This body is not listening to the people. Indeed, the very fact that over 1.6 million Americans have signed a petition, have picked up the phone, have been calling offices in this great Chamber is viewed as an inappropriate imposition. What an indictment of this body that we think it is somehow illegitimate that the American people would ask us not to focus on irrelevant priorities. It is not like the American people are calling, saying focus on some parochial issue. By the way, phone calls are not coming from our districts saying: Senator, please take more of the American people's tax money and send it back to our district. We would like some more pork.
Those are not the calls. Those are not the calls we are getting. The calls are from people who are saying: Listen, jobs and the economy is my No. 1 priority. Why isn't it Congress's? Jobs and the economy matter. Why? Because if you are working, if you are working in a good job, you are providing for your family. It makes it easier for families to stay together. Moms and dads--it makes it easier for them to raise their kids, raise them with good values. It makes it easier for them to provide a good education for their kids.
When you have one job, it lets you begin to climb the economic ladder to a better job and a better job and a better job. That is the American spirit. Yet we have tens of millions of people in this country out of work. Every month we get the reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that say even more people have given up looking for work.
The odd way our unemployment statistics work, that makes the number the newspapers report go down. Because when a few hundred thousand people say: All right, I give up, it is so hopeless, I will never find a job, that, curiously, results in the unemployment number going down because the number that gets reported in the papers is a measure of a percentage of how many of the people looking for work are unable to find it.
I am going to suggest that people giving up is even worse. What a sad testament, given the American spirit, the American spirit that we can do anything we set our minds to, that anyone--the great blessings of this Nation have been fundamentally that it does not matter who you are, it does not matter who your daddy was, it does not matter whether you were born into great wealth and privilege and advantage or whether you were born into humble means, anyone in this country can achieve anything based on hard work, perseverance, and based on the content of your character. What a tremendous, unique blessing that is in the United States of America. The reason this ObamaCare fight matters so much is that is imperiled right now. In order for anyone with nothing to achieve anything, they have to be able to get a job to start. They have to get on to the first rung of the economic ladder to have a chance of getting to the second or the third or the fourth or the fifth.
Just a week ago the Wall Street Journal had a long article about the ``lost generation,'' about young people coming out of school in the last few years who have not gotten their first job or who have gotten a part-time job. Because of ObamaCare, their employer does not want to hire them for 40 hours a week, so they get hired for 29 hours a week.
Think about young people. If they do not get that first job, they are not going to get the second, they are not going to get the third. The impact for young people right now that ObamaCare is having is absolutely devastating. What this Wall Street Journal article was saying is that the economic data shows that impact will be with them their entire lives; that when they start off their career not gaining skills, not working, not climbing the economic ladder, that delay will stick with them forever.
What a travesty. Where is the outrage? Where is the outrage? Where are the Senators standing here saying: What a travesty that young people are being denied a fair shot at the American dream because of what we have wrought because of ObamaCare. That should unite all of us. If we were listening to the American people, that would be where our attention would lie.
Fundamentally, what this week is about is that we need to make DC listen, make them listen to the single mom working at a diner, struggling to feed her kids, who has just been told she is being reduced to 29 hours a week. Who is speaking for that single mom right now? Who is talking about how ObamaCare is forcing more and more people into part-time employment? And, by the way, she does not get health insurance. Instead, forced into 29 hours a week, what does that single mom do? She gets a second job. So now she is working two jobs, with 29 hours a week for both of them. Now she is away from her kids even more. She does not have health insurance at either job now. But she has to travel from one to the other. She has to deal with two conflicting schedules because one job wants her to work Tuesday, and the other job wants her to work at that same time on Tuesday. She has to go to both of her bosses. Both of them say: You need to be there Tuesday afternoon. Who is speaking for that single mom right now?
On Friday or Saturday of this week we will vote on cloture. Anyone who votes yes for cloture, anyone who votes to cut off debate on this bill, is voting to allow Senate majority leader Harry Reid to fully fund ObamaCare. That is a vote that I think is a profound mistake. It is a vote that I hope all 46 Republicans will stand united against. It is a vote that, in time, I hope more than a few Democrats will stand against.
To fix the problems in this country, this does not have to be a partisan issue. Many of the President's most vocal supporters have started coming out against ObamaCare. Why? Because the facts show it is not working, because if you get beyond the team mentality in Washington, if you get beyond the partisan focus in Washington and you ask, is this thing good for the American people, it is very hard on the merits to make the case that it is.
It is very hard. It is quite interesting that in the course of this debate there have been more than a few newspaper articles, more than a few attacks from our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle and also from our friends on the Republican side of the aisle.
I told my wife that I now pick up the newspaper each day to learn just what a scoundrel I am and just what attacks have come, some on the record and some--actually the ones that are often even better are the anonymous ones. I have to say there is no courage like the courage in Washington of the anonymous congressional staffers. I have chuckled at more than a few of them. You know, it says something when Members of this body, the congressional staffers, and members of the media want to make this about personalities. They want to make this about a battle of this Senator versus that Senator, this person versus that person, so it is all personal. It is like reading the Hollywood gossip pages. That is how this issue is covered. It is not by accident because one of the ways Washington has discovered for not listening to the people is distraction. Distract the voters with smoke and mirrors.
This fight is not about any Member of this body. This fight is not about personality. Look, most Americans could not give a flying flip about a bunch of politicians in Washington. Who cares? You know, almost all of us are in cheap suits and have bad haircuts. Who cares? What the American people care about is their own lives. What the American people care about is giving their kids a better future. What the American people care about is having a job with a future, not a job where they are working 29 hours a week, where they are punching a clock, where they feel as though they are just going through the motions, but a job where they say: Hey, I have a career. I can see the next step. I can see the future for my family. That is what the American people care about.
So regardless of the rocks that will be thrown--and they will continue to be thrown--I have no intention of engaging in that game, no intention of speaking ill of any Senator, Republican or Democratic, because it is not about us. Anyone who is trying to make this a battle of personalities is trying to change the topic from the topic that should matter: whether ObamaCare is helping the American people.
If we focus on the substance, the evidence is overwhelming. This law is a train wreck. Every day the headlines come in: more jobs lost, more people losing their health insurance, more premiums going up, more people pushed into part-time work. Yet every day the Senate goes about its business and says: We are too busy to listen to the American people.
There are different games, to be sure, that go on on both sides of the aisle. Many of our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle right now endeavor to convince the American people: Pay no attention to your lying eyes; ObamaCare really is terrific. That is not going terribly well. But on the Republican side of the aisle, there is a lot of energy and attention focused on saying: Well, yes, ObamaCare is terrible, but under no circumstances could we ever do anything about it. That is beyond us. We are destined to lose. So what we are interested in on the Republican side of the aisle is let's cast a show vote--2, 3, 10--as many votes as possible to say: ObamaCare is really bad. We cannot fix it.
You know, that problem--it crosses that middle line. Whether you are telling your constituents it is really working out well despite the objective facts to the contrary or whether you are telling your constituents: I agree, it is a terrible thing, but I cannot do anything to fix it, in both cases you are not listening to the people. That is something we need to correct. All of us, all 100 of us--we need to listen to the people. Together, we need to make DC listen. If we do not, the frustration will grow. If we do not, the disillusion with Washington will grow. If we do not, the approval rating of Congress will keep going down, keep going down, keep going down. The only way to fix this problem is to demonstrate that we understand--we understand the fact that we are not driven by partisan ideology; that we are driven by doing our jobs and listening to the American people.
It is my fervent hope that over the course of this week, over the course of this debate, that all 46 Senators on the Republican side will unite and thatmore and more Democrats will come together and say: Listen, we have an obligation to our constituents. That is an obligation we are going to honor.
Mr. LEE. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. CRUZ. I am happy to yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. LEE. I would ask my distinguished colleague, the Senator from Texas, a series of questions with regard to this concept to make DC listen. It is interesting that we are having this discussion right now at a time in our history when never has it been easier for so many people throughout the country with so few resources to be heard by so many.
In the past, you had to own a newspaper or perhaps in more recent years you had to own a radio station or a television company or something like that to be heard by a lot of people. But these days pretty much anyone can gain access to a telephone or the Internet, they can send an e-mail, they can submit a post. It is one of the things that have made possible a groundswell of people--just a few minutes ago the Senator mentioned 1.6 million Americans just in the last few weeks signing a petition asking for Congress to make a decision to protect the American people from the harmful effects of ObamaCare.
They want government funded, just as we want government funded. They want government to be able to continue to do the things government does. They want people to be able to rely on government to protect them, to protect our borders, to protect our sovereignty, protect our homeland against those who would harm us. They want government to be able to carry out its basic functions and its responsibility. They want their government funded. But they do not want that held hostage by something else. They do not want that funding tied to the funding of ObamaCare in the sense that they want to keep government funded but they want us to defund ObamaCare.
The House of Representatives shows that at least that side of DC, that side of the Capitol was listening. I applaud the Speaker of the House and the other leaders in the House of Representatives who did that. That suggests to me that they were listening on that side of the Capitol. They had many millions of Americans calling out on the telephone, through mail, e-mail, every conceivable medium
for relief from this bill. They listened. They listened because they understand that the American people are being hurt by this. They ask the same questions the Senator from Texas and I and others have asked: How many more Americans will have to lose their jobs because of ObamaCare before Congress acts? How many more Americans will have to see their wages or their hours cut as a result of this ill-conceived law before we do something about this? How many more people will have to lose access to health coverage before Congress does something?
Just last Friday we saw Home Depot--one of America's great companies, one of America's great success stories, one of America's great employers--announce that 20,000 employees will be losing their health coverage. How many more stories like this will we have to hear before Congress does something to protect Americans from the harmful effects of this law--a law that was passed a few years ago without a single Republican vote in the House of Representatives; a law that was passed a few years ago without a single Republican vote in the Senate; a law that was passed--all 2,700 pages as it was then constituted--without, as far as I know, many, if any, Members of this body or the other body in the Capitol having had the opportunity fully to read it. Since then, of course, it has expanded. We have had an additional 20,000 pages of regulations promulgated, increasing rather exponentially the impact of this law. The popularity of the law has not improved with time, just as the complexity of the law has not become less problematic in the intervening 3 1/2 -year period.
So as we look at this, we think about the fact that it is important for Congress to listen to the American people. Again, today it has never been so easy for so many Americans with so few resources at their disposal to make sure that they are, in fact, heard. So we have to ask ourselves the question--I have to ask the Senator the question: How long will it be before Congress acts?
I am pleased that the Senator referred to the opportunity crisis, the economic opportunity crisis in America. He referred to the economic ladder in this country. You know, I think it is an interesting fact and we need to consider that--according to one recent study published I believe just in the last few weeks--for the first time in American history, 40 percent of those born in America, into the bottom quintile of the American economy, the bottom 20 percent of income earners in this country--40 percent of the bottom 20 percent will remain in the bottom 20 percent throughout the duration of their lifetime. To my knowledge, that has never happened in this country. To my knowledge, this undercuts what has long been a very distinguishing, enviable characteristic of the United States. It is what has made this the greatest civilization the world has ever known--the fact that this is a country where regardless of where you were born on the economic ladder, regardless of the circumstances in which you came into this world or came into this country, you could make it. In fact, your chances of doing so were relatively strong. Yet 40 percent of those people, we now understand, will stay there throughout the duration of their lives.
Another study came out, also a few weeks ago, indicating that in 34 States and the District of Colombia, an individual or a family is actually likely to see a dip in their well-being, a dip in their standard of living if, instead of receiving welfare benefits, they decide instead to shed those benefits and go on to an entry level job. That is sad. That is sad because that suggests that our government--as well-intentioned as many of those programs might be, they will have set in place a series of conditions that trap people, especially parents, into a vulnerable, poor condition.
If there is one thing that I think parents feel somewhat universally, it is a degree of risk aversion. People do not like to take risks that could jeopardize their ability to provide for their children. If we set up a set of conditions in which people, in order to maintain their level of certainty that they might have while surviving under a system of welfare benefits provided by the Federal Government--if they become locked into that, locked into poverty in perpetuity because of that, that is disconcerting because the risk is always too high to make that jump to an entry level job. Without the entry level job, there will never be the secondary job, there will never be the first raise or the second raise or the first, second, or third promotion. Without those things, there is no ladder. Without those things, there is an opportunity lost and people remain on the bottom rungs of that very ladder.
We see at the top rung a system of crony capitalism that sometimes has the impact of keeping some people and some big businesses artificially held in place at the top of the economic ladder at the expense of others, at the expense of would-be competitors who are driven out or held out from the beginning from the competitive marketplace through the oppressive intervention of the government, through the government's favoritism, and through the government's ability sometimes, regrettably, to choose winners and losers in the marketplace.
You see where most Americans are, right in the middle of the ladder. On the middle rungs you see people working, trying to get by from day to day. They are able to survive, able to provide for the basic needs of their families. But they would like to do better. They would like to be able to provide a more comfortable living for their families.
They find very often that no sooner do they find an increase in their income than that same increase has been gobbled up by a combination of oppressive taxes, oppressive regulations, and a devastating impact of inflation. When those things happen, we find people are unable to make their way up that economic ladder.
We find ourselves at a precipice of sorts. We find ourselves about to embark on a very bold experiment in which we rather dramatically expand the role of the Federal Government, injecting it more directly, more completely, more dangerously into one of the most personal aspects of most people's lives, into the health care industry. This is an industry that comprises a very significant portion of our Nation's economy in an area in which people feel strongly about their own right, about their own innate, inherent need and desire to maintain a degree of control that is not subject to the will and whim of government bureaucrats in Washington.
At the same time the government is doing that, the government will be consuming an increasingly large share of the resources moving through our economy, making it even harder for people who are trying to get by to do so and to do so without undue interference from the government.
This is an issue that is important to so many people. This is an issue that reminds people of the fact that whenever government acts, it does so at the expense of our own individual liberty. It does so at the expense of our ability to live our lives as we would live them. It does so very often at the expense of the American economy. It does so very often at the expense of economic opportunity for Americans, you see, because when we expand government, we expand its cost. We make ourselves as a country less free. We leave ourselves with fewer alternatives.
Is there a role for government to play in health care? Absolutely. Of course there is. No one disputes that. Are there improvements that can be made to our health care system? Certainly there are.
But a 2,700-page law that was passed after Members of Congress were told they had to pass it in order to find out what is in it, that has expanded since then to include within its penumbra 20,000 pages of regulatory text, a law that has become less and less popular as time has gone on--this has become very difficult. We find this becomes less and less something that the American people support.
I would ask if Senator Cruz feels that the American people have every right to speak out on this. Specifically does the Senator feel the American people have every right to expect that those of us serving in the Senate will do everything we possibly can, even casting difficult votes, even casting procedural votes that might be difficult to cast or difficult to explain? Do they have every right to do that even if it causes great inconvenience for them and for us in the process of complying with their wishes?
Mr. CRUZ. I thank my friend from Utah for that very good question. The answer is absolutely yes. That is the foundation of our Nation. If you look at the history of government in the world, it hasn't been pretty. The history of government for most of the existence of mankind has been a story of oppression, a story of rulers imposing their will on their subjects. For millennia, we were told that rights come from government. They come from kings and queens, and they are to be given to the people by grace, to be taken away by the whim of the ruler. That has been the state of affairs for most of the history of humanity.
The founding of our Nation embodied many revolutions.
The first revolution was a revolution that was a bloody revolution fought with guns and bayonets. But even more important than that revolution was the revolution of ideas that occurred. The revolution of ideas that began this Nation was twofold.
First, America began from the presupposition that our rights come from God. It is for that reason the Declaration Of Independence begins: ``We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,'' that we are endowed--not by a king, not by a queen, not even by a President--but ``endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.''
That is and was a revolutionary idea, and it led to the second revolutionary aspect of the founding of our Nation which was that we inverted the concept of sovereignty. For millennia sovereignty began at the top. It was the ruler who was called the sovereign. The word sovereignty derives from that notion. Of course, the sovereign is where sovereignty resides.
The American Framers turned that notion on its head. We said: There is no sovereign. Sovereignty resides with we the people. That is why our Constitution begins ``We the People,'' because this Nation wasn't founded by rulers, it wasn't founded by elected officials, it wasn't even founded by States. It was founded by we the people, the American people. That is the only place sovereignty has ever resided in the United States of America.
The Constitution, in turn, was created to lend power to government, not to give it, to lend it and to lend it, I would suggest, only in good behavior. Thomas Jefferson referred to the Constitution as chains that bind the mischief of government, that sovereignty is an idea we need to get back to.
I am going to suggest that for some time now the Senate has not behaved as if we the people are sovereign. For some time the Senate has not behaved as if each of us collectively has 3 million bosses. For a long time the Senate has behaved as if the rules that matter are the rules in Washington, DC. That is why the most important objective of this week is to make DC listen. The most important objective of this week is to reassert that sovereignty is with we the people, that calls from our constituents and townhalls are not a pesky annoyance. It is the core of our job. It is the core of our job to listen to the sovereign, which is we the people.
Right now we the people are hurting. If you get outside Washington, DC, you ask them about ObamaCare over and over, and the answer you get is: This thing isn't working.
A few weeks ago I hosted a small business roundtable in
Kerrville, TX. Kerrville is a delightful town in central Texas. It is in the beautiful hill country. If anyone wants to come to Texas, I would encourage you. Kerrville is a great destination in Texas.
This was a small gathering in a restaurant, about 20 small business owners. I asked each of them and I said: Let's go around the room. If each of you could introduce yourself, share a little bit about yourself, and then share a concern that is weighing on your heart. Share something you are praying about, share something you are worried about, share something you are focused on right now.
It was a totally open-ended question. They could have talked about any issue under the Sun. They could have talked about Syria, guns, they could have talked about anything.
We went around the table one after the other after the other. Over half of the small business owners around that table said to me: Ted, the single biggest obstacle I face in my business is ObamaCare. Hands down, not even close, there is nothing that comes close.
It was striking. Of those 20, there were probably 4 or 5 of them who relayed some version of this same story. One was the fellow who owned the restaurant we were meeting in. He said: You know, we have a great opportunity to expand our business. I have an opportunity to make the restaurant even bigger, expand it, and from a business perspective, this opportunity looks good. But he said: You know, we have got between 20 and 30 employees. If we expand the business we will go over 50. And if we go over 50, we are subject to ObamaCare. If that happens, I will go out of business. So you know what. I am not pursuing the expansion. I am not going to do it. We are going to stay the size we are.
One person after another around the table said the same thing. They had 30 employees, 35, 40 employees. They had great opportunities to go open another location, expand into a new aspect. One after the other said: We will not do it, because if we get over 50 employees, ObamaCare will bankrupt us.
I want you to think about each of those 4 or 5 businesses and the 10 or 20 jobs that each of them didn't create, isn't creating right now because of ObamaCare. Then I want you to multiply that by thousands or tens of thousands of small businesses all across this country that could be creating jobs. I want you to think about all the people right now who are home wanting to work.
There are, by the way, I will note, some politicians who suggest that some people in this country are lazy and don't want to work. I don't believe that. I think Americans want to work. Americans want the self-respect that comes from going to the office, from working, from providing for your family, from working to achieve the American dream.
Do some people give up? Sure. Can you give in to hopelessness? Yes. When you keep banging your head against a wall over and over again, trying to get a job, and you don't get anywhere, it is only natural for people to feel despair. I want you to think of the millions of jobs we could have but for small businesses that are not growing, not expanding, not creating those jobs.
Another small business owner around that table owned several fast food restaurants. She had a problem. She owned enough fast food restaurants that she had over 50 employees. I will mention the restaurant business and the fast food business side in particular is quite labor dependent. I doubt if there is a sector in this economy that has been hurt more than the labor in the fast food business. But her problem was she had enough stores so she was over 50 employees, so that strategy wouldn't work for her. She described how she has already forcibly reduced the hours of every one of her employees to 29 hours per week.
I will tell you this woman almost began to tear up. She was emotional. She was not happy about this, to put it mildly. She said: Listen, we have been in business a long time. Many of these employees we have known 10 or 20 years. These are single moms. These are people--look, if you are working in a fast food restaurant you are not at the pinnacle of your career. You are struggling to pay the bills. These are single moms who are working hard and they can't feed their kids on 29 hours a week. But, you know, they can't feed their kids if I go out of business either. If we are subject to ObamaCare, we go out of business.
Why 29 hours a week? Well, just like the 50-employee threshold, ObamaCare kicks in and counts an employee if he or she works 30 hours a week. One of the things that is forcing small businesses all over the country to do is to force their employees out of good full-time jobs into 29 hours a week because they don't get hammered with the costs and burdens of ObamaCare.
I will mention another small business owner who I think will particularly hit home with the Presiding Officer because I know the issues that resonate with him. This is an individual who manufactures hunting blinds--actually very interesting. They are hunting blinds that are camouflaged to look like trees. They are really very clever creations. He described how he has been forced to move his manufacturing overseas, to move it to China. So right now he is manufacturing in China.
He said: Listen, I want to manufacture here in the United States. That matters to me. I care about that.
He said this would be 150 to 200 good manufacturing jobs here in the United States.
The Presiding Officer and I both come from States where there are a lot of people who are struggling and who would love to see 200 more manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing used to be a tremendous strength of our economy, but the manufacturing sector has been hammered in recent decades. Yet this small business owner said that because of ObamaCare, if he brought his manufacturing back to the United States, his workers would all be subject to ObamaCare and he couldn't be competitive in the business. It would drive him out of business.
I would ask my colleagues to consider each of those small business owners and multiply it by the millions of small business owners across this country--the millions of small business owners who aren't growing, the millions of small business owners who are forcibly reducing their employees' hours to 29 hours a week, the millions of small business owners who are considering moving operations overseas or have already because of ObamaCare. Why is the economy gasping for breath? Why are people not able to get jobs? Because ObamaCare is killing jobs, and the Senate should listen to the people. We need to make DC listen.
Mr. VITTER. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. CRUZ. I am happy to yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. VITTER. I thank the Senator. Does he acknowledge that he understands, as I do, that as this monstrosity goes into effect October 1 and as it has all of these really devastating impacts on individuals and small businesses, under a special illegal rule from the Obama administration, Congress and Washington get an exemption; they get a special pass; they get a special deal no other American gets under the law?
Mr. CRUZ. I thank the Senator for his question, and he is absolutely right. There are many scandalous aspects of ObamaCare: how it was passed--on a brutal partisan vote rammed through with late-night deals that have earned rather infamous nicknames, such as the ``Cornhusker kickback,'' which has sadly become part of modern political lore; and the ``Louisiana purchase,'' with all due respect to my friend from the great State of Louisiana, who was not involved in that. And one of the most sorry aspects of ObamaCare is the aspect Senator Vitter refers to, which is that President Obama has chosen, at the behest of majority leader Harry Reid, at the behest of Democratic Members of the Senate, to exempt Members of Congress and their staff from the plain language of the statute.
When ObamaCare was being passed, Senator Chuck Grassley--a towering giant in this body; a strong, principled conservative--introduced a commonsense provision to ObamaCare that said: If you are going to force ObamaCare on the American people, if you are going to create these health insurance exchanges and you are going to force millions of people into these exchanges, then Congress should not operate by better rules than the American people. So he introduced a simple amendment designed to treat Members of Congress just like the American people so that we didn't have this two-class system.
It has been reported--I was not serving in this body at the time--that amendment was voted on and accepted because Democratic Senators believed the bill would go to conference and in the conference committee they could strip it out and it would magically disappear. But then, because of the procedural games it took to pass it, they didn't have the opportunity to do that, and suddenly, horror of all horrors, this bill saying Congress should be bound by the same rules as the American people became the law of the land.
So what happened? Majority leader Harry Reid and Democratic Senators had a closed-door meeting with the President here in the Capitol where they said, according to public news reports: Let us out of ObamaCare. We don't want to be in these exchanges.
One would assume they are reading the same news reports the rest of us are reading--that ObamaCare is a train wreck, that it is not working--and the last thing Members of Congress wanted to do was to have their health care jeopardized. And the President directed his administration to exempt Members of Congress and their staff, ignoring the language of the statute, disregarding the language of the statute and saying: You guys are friends of the administration. We are taking care of you.
I want to take a minute, in response to this question, to commend the Senator from Louisiana. Senator Vitter introduced an amendment to reverse this exemption, and it was a bold amendment. It was an amendment that said we as Members of Congress should be subject to the same rules as the American people. We shouldn't be treated by special or different rules for us. Indeed, the amendment of Senator Vitter said Members of Congress should be subject to ObamaCare, our staff should be subject to ObamaCare, and members of the administration--the political appointees of the Obama administration, who, by the way, are not in the exchanges--should be too. So if the President and Cabinet appointees and his political officials want to go into communities and tell everyone how wonderful ObamaCare is, then let them do so from personal experience. Let them do so not being exempted but subject to the same exchanges and subject to the same rules the American people are.
The reason I wish to commend the Senator from Louisiana is his introducing that amendment prompted a response that, I will suggest, brought disgrace and disrepute on this body. It prompted a political response that targeted the Senator from Louisiana personally.
Now, we have all heard the saying ``politics ain't beanbag,'' but the nastiness with which the Democratic majority responded to Senator Vitter for daring to say that the Washington ruling class should be subject to the same rules as the rest of America was extraordinary even for Washington, DC.
In fact, I would note that the majority leader and the junior Senator from California, as I understand from public news reports, proposed a response to the Vitter amendment that said any Senator who votes for the Vitter amendment--regardless of whether it passes but simply if you cast a vote in favor of it--he or she will lose their health insurance.
I have to admit that when I first heard of this proposed amendment, I shook my head in amazement. I had never heard of such a thing, and I suggested to a friend who is a law professor that that would make a marvelous law school final exam. Imagine this
amendment being passed into law and asking your law students to catalog all of the myriad ways in which such a proposal would be unconstitutional. In fact, I made this point to the law professor I was talking to. I said: If you as a private citizen came to any Member of the Senate and said: Senator, if you vote the way I want you to, I am going to pay you thousands of dollars that you can deposit into your personal bank account, you, Mr. Law Professor, Mr. Private Citizen, would promptly and quite rightly be prosecuted for bribery. It is a criminal offense. It is a felony.
If, on the other hand, you or any other American citizen went to a U.S. Senator--went to Senator Vitter--and said: Senator Vitter, if you don't vote the way I want, I am going to take thousands of dollars out of your personal bank account, I am going to extract them forcibly from your personal bank account, well, as I told the law professor, then you would be guilty of extortion and would be charged and no doubt criminally convicted because under the black letter definition, that conduct--threatening to pay someone individually thousands of dollars or take thousands of dollars away from them as a direct quid pro quo for how a Member of Congress votes--constitutes either bribery or extortion.
Now, let me be clear: No Member of this body is guilty of bribery or extortion. Why? The simplest reason is because the Constitution's speech and debate clause protects all of us, such that given their action was proposing an amendment themselves, there is a constitutional immunity. So I am not suggesting that anyone is guilty of bribery or extortion. But I am saying that if any private citizen who didn't happen to be a Member of the Senate did the exact same thing as the suggested content of their amendment, he or she would have committed a felony under the plain text of those definitions.
So I want to commend Senator Vitter for shining a light on basic fairness, for enduring the vilification that was unfairly directed his way, and for making the point that outside of Washington is simple common sense.
I would suggest that if any of us were to get a gathering of our constituents together, if we were to get a gathering of constituents from the opposing party and ask this question at any townhall gathering in our States: Do you believe that Members of Congress should be exempted from ObamaCare, that we should have a special rule, that we should disregard the language of the statute and not be subject to ObamaCare the way the American people are, the answer would be overwhelmingly no. And it doesn't matter where in the country you are or what your party is.
I thank Senator Vitter for having the courage and the principle to highlight this particularly unfortunate aspect of ObamaCare.
Mr. VITTER. Will the Senator yield for a further question?
Mr. CRUZ. I will be happy to yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. VITTER. Will the Senator also acknowledge that given that history on this issue, given that illegal rule to exempt Congress, to have a special bailout, a special subsidy for Congress that the Obama administration is putting into law without valid authority, and given that we are debating and acting on a spending bill this week, we should be voting on that? We should get a vote on my amendment and the Cruz amendment together to block that illegal rule this week?
The majority leader said he had no problem with a vote on that, in theory. He said that last week. He should allow a vote on this crucial amendment, which will be filed to the bill, which will even be a germane amendment on this spending bill this week, before this illegal congressional exemption rule goes into effect. Would the Senator agree with me?
Mr. CRUZ. I agree enthusiastically.
Senator Vitter highlights one of the many reasons why every Republican in this body should vote against cloture on the bill on Friday or Saturday and why I believe a great many Democrats should vote against cloture as well.
As we understand it, we are told the amendment process on this bill is going to be rigged. The amendment process on this bill is going to be that once debate is cut off, there will be a bill simply to fund ObamaCare in its entirety, to delete the House language, and that other amendments will not be allowed. The amendment of the Senator from Louisiana will not be allowed, the amendment repealing the medical device taxes will not be allowed, and the amendment getting the IRS out of the business of ObamaCare will not be allowed. Instead, it will be a rigged playing field.
The only way to prevent that rigged playing field is for Senators to stand together and vote no on cutting off debate on Friday or Saturday when we have that vote. If we stand together and vote no, that forces this body to deal with the problem; otherwise, we know how the Kabuki dance ends. If cloture is invoked, if debate is cut off on the bill, very shortly thereafter the majority leader has publicly announced he will introduce an amendment to fully fund ObamaCare. That will require just 51 votes. So every Republican will get to vote no and tell his or her constituents they voted no. Yet magically and wonderfully it will pass because it will be a straight party-line, partisan vote, and other Senators will be silenced.
I think Senator Vitter is absolutely correct, we should vote on the Vitter amendment. Indeed, I would like to see the Vitter amendment broadened. Another member of our conference indicated that if the Vitter amendment were brought up, he would offer an amendment to expand it to all Federal employees. I think that is a terrific rule.
Right now, Federal employees earn substantially more than the private sector does. I don't think there is any entitlement to take our tax dollars and to live in a privileged condition being a Federal employee. If Members of this body are going to go on television and tell the American people: ObamaCare is great, it is good, it is terrific, it is so great, then they should be eager to live under it.
You can't have it both ways. Either ObamaCare is a train wreck, in which case we ought to listen to the American people and fix it, or ObamaCare is wonderful and terrific and fantastic and all of the great adjectives the proponents of the bill have used, in which case Members of Congress, staff, and Federal employees should all eagerly embrace it.
I very much agree with Senator Vitter that it is critical we vote on the Vitter amendment, and it is critical we make clear to the American people there are not two sets of rules. There is not a ruling class in Washington that somehow gets treated differently.
Let me talk for a minute about congressional staffers. Behind closed doors this issue generates a lot of passion. There are a great many congressional staff members who are dedicated public servants, who have often taken substantial salary cuts to come to Washington to serve this country, who work brutal hours. Among congressional staff, just like among Members, the idea that they would be subject to ObamaCare deeply concerns them. It concerns them on the money side and it concerns them on the quality of care and health insurance that they will be able to get on the exchanges.
To make it real, I note there are multiple members of my staff who have had very serious, even life-threatening health issues for whom the limited health insurance, the subpar, the poor quality health insurance that many fear will be available on the exchanges is not a passing concern, not an academic concern, not a concern that let's put in talking points, it is very real for a great many congressional staff, including staff in my office. If the Vitter amendment passes and Congress is subject to the same rules as the American people, there may well be quite a few congressional staff who tender their letters of resignation and leave.
I have had one staff member already indicate she would retire after many years of service, and the possibility of being put on ObamaCare was a real factor in that decision.
If we lose some good talent from Congress, that will be a shame and a hardship for every office. But what does that say? If ObamaCare is such a disaster that congressional staffers--and, mind you, a lot of these congressional staffers who may tender their letters of resignation are staffers working for Democratic Senators who drafted ObamaCare, who fight for ObamaCare every day. What does it say that staffers would be willing to quit because the quality of health care under ObamaCare would be so poor that they would rather go somewhere else than be subject to those laws? I think that speaks volumes.
Neither Senator Vitter nor I in the long term has any interest in seeing congressional staff and Federal employees on ObamaCare, but it does have the value of highlighting how bad it is.
If this body is content to leave the American people stuck in ObamaCare, then we ought to be subject to the same rules. If we are not willing to live under those rules, if we say, Wow, ObamaCare scares the heck out of us and we don't want to be subject to it, then the proper answer is not to vilify the Senator from Louisiana or any other Senator in this body. The proper answer is to step in and say to the American people--in fact, let me suggest something that would have a powerful clarifying impact on this body.
If only Senators would behave as if their constituents were at least as important as their congressional staff; if only Senators were to behave as if their constituents were at least as important as they are--to be honest, our constituents are more important. Our constituents are our bosses. They are the reason we are fighting. The fact that this body is so torn apart by the notion that each of us would be subject to ObamaCare and subject to the same rules the American people are highlights how broken Washington is. That shouldn't be controversial. That should be obvious.
Let me suggest to every Member of Congress, to every staffer who is dismayed--and, to be honest, saying they are dismayed is an understatement, to describe the degree of deep concern and even panic about this. Let me suggest to every Member of Congress and every staffer who is feeling that panic, direct that panic not to our own skins; direct that panic to the American people. Direct that panic to the single mom working at the diner, working two 29-hour-a-week jobs who is facing the consequences of ObamaCare.
Under ObamaCare, this President is getting ready to force millions of people onto exchanges where they are very likely to lose their health insurance.
In the privileged corridors of Washington, the risk of losing your health insurance, boy, that gets people worried. And it should. But it should worry us even more for all the people across this country.
The majority leader and Members of Congress can get a sitdown with the President of the United States. But 26 million Texans, most Texans can't get a sitdown with the President of the United States.
If you are powerful, you can get a special exemption. We have seen the President exempting every big corporation in America. Giant corporations, he said, for a year it doesn't apply to you. The language of the law explicitly applies. There is no year delay of the language of the law.
For over 200 years we have operated as a nation of laws, not men. We have operated as a nation that says if that is what the law says, then it kicks in January 1 and not a year from now.
What did the President say? No. Big companies have come to us. My friends in big business, I am going to give you a year-long exemption.
If ObamaCare were so terrific, why would the President be wanting to delay it until after the next election? The year-delay timing is not entirely coincidental. The employer mandate was supposed to kick in January 1 of next year, and the President unilaterally and contrary to law delayed it one whole year until after the November 2014 elections.
If the representations that so many Members of this body make to the American people were true that ObamaCare is terrific, is wonderful, then I would think the President would be eager to have it kick in before the election. If it were a good thing, you would want the good stuff to happen before the election and not after the election. The fact that it was moved for big businesses is an indication of how badly this law has failed.
But it is not just big businesses that have got an exemption. Members of Congress. Senators can get a closed-door meeting with the President of the
United States. With much fanfare, the President came to the Capitol, met with the Democratic Caucus, and as was widely reported they asked for a special exemption and they got it. How about the American people? They can't go in.
One of the reasons people are so unhappy with Washington is they get a sense that there are special rules that apply. Wall Street gets special exemptions, the big banks get special exemptions. Dodd-Frank sets up rules that hammer small banks, hammer community banks, hammer the little guy. But what happens to the big guys? They keep getting bigger. Why? Because they get rules made in Washington that favor the big guy over the little guy. And you wonder why there is such dissatisfaction in this country. But if you have political friends in this administration, you too can get an exemption.
Labor unions have more and more been expressing their dismay about ObamaCare as they have realized in practice the thing isn't working. Recently the labor unions came to the Obama administration and said, We want an exemption too. Big businesses got an exemption, Members of Congress got an exemption. Shouldn't labor unions, shouldn't union bosses get an exemption? And with much fanfare the administration reportedly told them, No.
I am going to make a prediction right here and now. If the Congress does not act, if we don't show leadership in defunding ObamaCare, if we don't stand together in imposing cloture on Friday, if we don't act to avert this train wreck for the American people, before the end of this President's term we are going to see him grant an exemption for labor unions. That has been the pattern. Friends, political buddies--they get a slap on the back. They get special treatment.
It wouldn't have been great politics to grant the labor unions an exemption right now, right in the middle of this debate. Right when you have over 1.6 million people signing a national petition, right when Congress is debating it--gosh, it would have looked bad to grant an exemption then.
It is a little reminiscent of the President's remarks regarding Mr. Putin that were caught on tape before the last election--I forget the exact language, but, Tell Vladimir I will be able to work with him a lot more after the election.
I don't think it takes any stretch of the imagination at all to understand that, give it a little time, let the pesky people who are sort of worked up a little bit on ObamaCare dissipate. Then we will quietly do the exemption for labor unions.
Let me note the point ``quietly.'' One of the self-described fact checkers--and we may talk long enough that I talk a little bit about fact checkers, because that is a particularly pernicious bit of yellow journalism that has cropped up that lets journalists be editorial writers and pretend they are talking about objective facts, and basically conclude as a factual matter--not as a matter of opinion--and anyone who disagrees with them is objectively lying.
One point that one of the so-called fact checkers in the Washington Post took issue with was an observation I made that President Obama is quietly granting exceptions.
I note that the exception for big business was announced in a blog posting by a midlevel political appointee in the Treasury Department, if I remember right, on a Friday. I may be wrong on the day but I think it was on a Friday. In Washington language, by any measure, when you announce a major policy that impacts the whole country that exempts giant businesses from your rule that you are jamming on the American people and you don't do it from the White House, you don't do it from the President, you don't do it as an announcement, you don't take questions on it, you simply put a blog posting from a midlevel staffer, that counts as ``quietly.''
It hasn't been quiet since then because everyone happened to notice. So my prediction right now is if we get past this, if the forces in this body who defend the status quo--and, wow, are there a lot of forces that defend the status quo. There are a lot of people with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. If they prevail, if ObamaCare goes into effect before the end of this President's administration, mark my words, you will see an exemption for labor unions just like the exemption for big business, just like the exemption for Members of Congress.
What are we left with then? We are left with a system where ObamaCare is a rule for, as Leona Helmsley so famously described them, the little people. For everybody who doesn't have power and juice and connections in Washington, for everyone--look for the men and women at home, maybe you have an army of lobbyists working for you. Maybe you have Senators' cell phones on your speed dial. Maybe you can walk the corridors of power. In that case you too get an exemption. But if you are just a hard-working American, if you are just trying to provide for your family, if you are just trying to do an honest day's work, make your community better, raise your kids, set a good example, then the message this President has sent--and sadly the message the Senate has sent--is you don't count. We are going to treat everybody else better than you.
That is exactly backward. It is the hard-working American we work for, not the lobbyists with tassels on their loafers who wander the halls but the single mom in a diner. They are the people who are losing.
I wish to talk about the harm to jobs and economic growth that is coming from ObamaCare. Americans continue to suffer from high unemployment and severe underemployment. Instead of helping job growth, ObamaCare's mandates and costs are causing businesses to stop hiring workers, to cut employees' hours, and they are increasing the costs to operate businesses. Small businesses in particular are being hammered by ObamaCare.
Here are some recent statistics on unemployment and underemployment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report for August of 2013, there are 11.3 million unemployed persons. The unemployment rate, the official unemployment rate is listed at 7.3 percent. Yet college graduates over 25 face just a 3.5-percent unemployment.
Former Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee John Edwards used to talk about two Americas. I didn't agree with a lot of things John Edwards said as a political candidate, but I actually agreed with that notion, and it is a tragic notion, that there are two Americas. There are two Americas, A, between the ruling class in Washington and everyday Americans, but there are also two Americas right now between those of wealth and privilege and power and everybody else. If you are lucky enough to be a college graduate, your unemployment rate is 3.5 percent. That is pretty good. The people who are getting hammered, who are losing under ObamaCare, are the most vulnerable among us. They are young people, Hispanics, African Americans, single moms. For Black teens the unemployment rate is over 10 times higher than it is for college graduates--38.2 percent.
Let me ask, when small businesses are not hiring, when small businesses are laying off people, when small businesses are forcing employees to work 29 hours a week, whom do you think that is impacting? It doesn't impact titans of industry. The rich and powerful are not losing their jobs. They are not finding themselves forced into part-time work.
We talked about the fast food business. The fast food business, that industry is being hammered. You want to talk about what a tremendous avenue for employment the fast food industry has been, particularly for the first and second job someone has. When we look at the unemployment rate of African-American teens of 38.2 percent, the fast food industry has been such a great avenue for advancement for minority teenagers.
I note I do not view that from the perspective of abstract numbers on a piece of paper. I view that from a very personal perspective, because 55 years ago, when my father came from Cuba, he was 18, he was penniless, and he couldn't speak English. But he was lucky. He was lucky to get to America. He was lucky to be able to apply for a student visa, to be accepted to the University of Texas, to flee the Batista regime, where he had been imprisoned and tortured as a kid. By the time he was a teenager, my father had endured more than the vast majority of Members of Congress will ever experience.
I will note with that background it does make the back-and-forth of Washington pretty mild by comparison. If someone says something mean about you in the newspaper, it may not be altogether pleasant, but it is pretty darned mild compared to being beaten and almost killed in a Cuban jail as my dad was 55 years ago.
When he landed in Austin--if I could, Mr. President, I would ask you to put yourself in his shoes--not literally, because I think your feet are bigger than his, but figuratively. When my dad landed in Austin, he couldn't speak English. He didn't know anybody. Imagine being in a strange land where you cannot speak English, you have $100 sewn into your underwear that my grandmother put there. The first thing he needed was a job, so he went to look for a job.
The problem is if you are an 18-year-old kid from Cuba and you cannot speak English, there are not a lot of jobs you can get. If you can't speak English, it is pretty hard to get a job where you have to deal with customers who are going to expect you to speak English. At that point he didn't have a lot of skills. He was a teenager. So his first job was washing dishes. He made 50 cents an hour.
Why did he get that job? Because you didn't have to speak English. Even though he did not have a lot of skills as an 18-year-old kid, he was perfectly capable of taking a dish, putting it under very hot water, scrubbing it and setting it aside and he did it over and over.
When my father was here, he had no means of support other than washing dishes. So what he did, one of the reasons he wanted to work in a restaurant, is that restaurants would let you eat while you were working. It was one of the perks of working in a restaurant; the employees were able to eat. My father had no money for food. He barely had money to pay for a tiny little apartment. In fact, he started in the dorms, I believe, and tuition. That was it. He didn't have money to buy food, so what my dad did is he ate at work. Since he liked to eat 7 days a week, he worked 7 days a week. He would go in and he only ate during those 8 hours. During the 8 hours he was working washing dishes, he would eat like crazy, I mean he would just feed his face. Because when he left, the next 16 hours he wasn't eating anything, wasn't buying food until the next 16 hours he showed up at work. That was the next time he was going to eat.
Some people may look at a dishwashing job paying 50
cents an hour and turn up their nose at it and say: Who really cares about people in jobs like that? Sometimes this Senate behaves like that. Who cares about people in jobs like that?
But after some time my father learned English. I will tell you how he learned English. He did a couple of things. No. 1, my father signed up for Spanish 101. When he was a freshman at UT, he signed up for Spanish 101. You might say: Why would a native speaker take Spanish 101? That seems a little dumb.
What my father would do is sit in the classroom and basically try to reverse engineer everything. So the professor would say milk is leche, and he would write it down and say leche is milk. He would try to sit and listen, and as the teacher was teaching Spanish he would try to do everything backward and try to figure out what the English was.
The other thing my dad would do, on Saturdays, he would go to movies. In fact, when I was a kid, we would go to movies all the time together. It was one of the things we loved to do together, still do. My dad used to go to movies on Saturday and he would sit there and watch the same movie in English typically three times. He would just sit there and watch it. When he first came there to Austin, he would watch a movie three times and have no idea of what was going on the first, second or third time. But then he would do it again and do it again.
The human brain is a miraculous thing. As he would watch the movie two or three times, by the second time you start picking up context, start picking up what was going on and start following the plot. By the third time he would start following it even more. So relatively quickly my father learned English.
I note he had a pretty exquisite incentive to learn English. His incentive to learn English was if he didn't, he was going to flunk out of school because he was taking his classes in English. He took mostly math classes and math was the sort of thing you did not need as much language as you do in other topics. But if he didn't learn English pretty fast, he was going to flunk out of the University of Texas.
Once he learned English, he managed, at the restaurant he was working at, to get a promotion. He got a promotion to be a cook. Being a cook, that was good. Look, being a cook was a lot better than being a dishwasher. It paid a little bit more. I don't know how much he got paid being a cook, but it paid better than 50 cents an hour. He had to speak enough English, so when someone came in and ordered, let me get a steak and potatoes, he had to know what that was and not give them scrambled eggs. So he learned enough to be a cook and respond to the orders.
The place he cooked was a place called the Toddle House. It was a place where the cooks were in front of the people. It doesn't exist anymore, but my father described it as a sort of Denny's. Imagine Denny's combined with Benihana. The menu was similar to Denny's, but the cook was in front of you so you could see him. So my dad learned to flip pancakes. Let me tell you, as a kid on Saturday or Sunday morning and your dad is making pancakes, it is very cool when he can flip them--you could make him flip them high in the air and catch them. But he could do that.
I will credit my father; he invented--this wasn't for the restaurant, but he did it anyway--he invented green eggs and ham. He did it two ways. No. 1, the easy way, is he put green food coloring in the eggs, chopped up ham in it. ``Green Eggs and Ham'' was my favorite book when I was a boy. The food coloring is a little bit cheating, but if you take some spinach and mix it into the eggs, the eggs turn green.
My dad worked as a cook to finish his way through the University of Texas. In 1961, my dad graduated, got a math degree. At his next job, he was hired as a teaching assistant. He began taking graduate classes in mathematics at the University of Texas and he got hired as a teaching assistant teaching undergrads math. A teaching assistant was a better job than washing dishes or being a cook. It paid more and it had more forward advancement. So he enjoyed being a teaching assistant.
He had all sorts of clever final exam questions that he would give. He taught college algebra. I remember one of his final exam questions was: You have a triangle with sides 11, 20, and 9. Compute the area.
You get students who would write pages and pages, trying to put all these various equations together, trying to figure out the area. Almost all of them were wrong. It is a basic rule of geometry, for a triangle the sum of any two sides has to be longer than the third side or else they don't actually meet. A triangle with sides of 20, 11, and 9--11 and 9 add up to 20. That is a straight line. The area is zero. So he enjoyed kind of coming up with clever final exam questions. That was one of them.
But from there, after being a teaching assistant, he applied for and got a job with IBM as a computer programmer. This was, I think, 1962, 1963. It was in the early 1960s. From there he got the skills as a computer programmer. He worked in the oil and gas industry. Subsequently, with my mother, he went on to start a small business, a seismic data processing company in the oil and gas business.
So when I was a kid, as I grew up, my parents were small business owners. When I talk about small businesses, similar to a great many Americans, the majority of Americans, it is not a hypothetical. I have grown up as the son of two small business owners, seeing the hard work, the challenges of trying to run a small business. In fact, I saw my parents' business go bankrupt when I was in high school. I saw the up sides and the down sides of being in a small business. It ain't easy.
If my father had not been able to get that first job washing dishes and making 50 cents an hour, he never would have gotten his second job as a cook. If he hadn't gotten his second job, he wouldn't have gotten his third job as a teaching assistant. If he hadn't have gotten that job, he wouldn't have been hired by IBM. If he hadn't been hired by IBM, he wouldn't have started his own business.
Earlier, the Senator from Utah talked about opportunity and the American dream. When we look at a statistic, such as the fact that African-American teenage unemployment is 38.2 percent, we are talking about a generation of young people who are not getting that first job. They are not getting the equivalent today of that job of washing dishes and making 50 cents an hour. They are not getting the job of flipping burgers in the fast food business because the impact of ObamaCare on the fast food business is so devastating that it is not hiring workers. The travesty is that they do not get to flip burgers. Flipping burgers is honorable work. It is not necessarily the fulfillment of someone's life's ambition, but it is so frequently a stepping stone to the next job and the next job and the next job.
As a young kid, one of the things you have to learn is basic work skills, such as how to show up on time. A lot of teenagers are not very good at showing up on time. They don't understand how to show up on time. Even some U.S. Senators have not figured that out. Yet, if a young American doesn't get a job or learn to work with his coworkers, customers, their boss, how to show up on time, to be courteous, respectful, diligent, and responsible, he or she can't learn the skills it takes to achieve in any job.
Some time ago I tweeted a speech Ashton Kutcher gave. It was actually a terrific speech. It was a speech at one of those award shows where he talked about the value of hard work. One of the things I remember he said was this: In my life, opportunity looks an awful lot like hard work. That was a great message. It was a great message to young people. Part of the reason I tweeted it out and to salute him--I have watched his TV shows and his movies, but I don't know him personally--was because he can speak to millions of young people who would never listen to me. I salute him for carrying a message about hard work, diligence, and working toward the American dream.
The greatest travesty of what is happening with ObamaCare is a generation of young people are being denied a fair chance at the American dream. If we look at economic growth, according to the Bureau of Economic Affairs, GDP growth over the last four quarters has been an abysmal 1.6 percent. The historic average since World War II is 3.3 percent. Our economy is stagnant, and ObamaCare is a big part of the reason.
So I ask the Presiding Officer, where is the urgency in this body? When the Presiding Officer goes home and talks to the men and women in West Virginia--or the men and women in Texas--he must hear that they are hurting. They understand that 1.6 percent economic growth is unacceptable and it is hurting the American people. Where is the urgency in this body? Where is the urgency to say: We have to stand and do something to turn it around.
Jobs are being lost because of ObamaCare. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey of small businesses in 2013 found that 71 percent of small businesses say ObamaCare makes it harder to hire workers. The study also found that two-thirds of small businesses are not ready to comply with ObamaCare rules.
Why do we care about small businesses? Look, on one level, we care about the entrepreneurs--the Horatio Algers and the people working toward the American dream--but even more fundamentally, small businesses produce two-thirds of the new jobs in this country. If small businesses are suffering, jobs are suffering and America suffers.
ObamaCare is an absolute disaster for small businesses. Forty-one percent of small business owners have held off on plans to hire new employees, and 38 percent say they are holding off on plans to grow their businesses in direct response to the law.
By the way, the most egregious parts of ObamaCare still have not kicked in. Forty-eight percent of small business owners say ObamaCare is bad for business. Less than 10 percent say it is good for business.
Jamie Richardson of White Castle explained how ObamaCare is impacting her business: In the 5 years prior to the health care law, we were opening an average of eight new White Castle restaurants each year. In 2013 we plan to just open two new locations. While other factors have slowed our growth, it is the mounting uncertainty surrounding the health care law that brought us to a standstill.
I want the Presiding Officer to think about that for a second. They were opening eight White Castle restaurants a year--I like their little burgers--and that dropped to two. So six a year over the last 4 years amounts to 24 White Castle restaurants. No. 1, just as a consumer--and I am a big fan of eating White Castle burgers--that is 24 places we can't go to get a White Castle burger. But that is not the real hardship. The real hardship is all the jobs that are lost from those 24 restaurants that didn't open. Every one of those stores would have multiple shifts with managers, cashiers, or kids just mopping the floor. All those jobs would have been on the economic ladder toward the American dream.
Even within a fast food restaurant there has been tremendous opportunity for investment. Maybe you get hired mopping a floor because you don't have any other skills or, like my dad, washing dishes because you don't have any other skills. If you work a little while, maybe you can move over to the fries and then to the griddle. You can move to the cashier desk and learn how to count change. A lot of kids don't know how to count change. Sadly, because of the educational challenges we have, a lot of kids don't have the skill to count change yet. They can learn that. Then, if you demonstrate hard work, perseverance, and customer service, maybe you will get promoted to assistant manager, then manager, and then who knows.
Just a few weeks ago I had dinner with a number of franchisees who own fast food restaurants for one particular very well-known hamburger chain. I listened to their stories. I start most meetings, if they are small enough that this is feasible--like the Kerrville small
business gathering--by asking them to go around and share an issue that is of a concern to them. I remember one gentleman, an African-American gentleman, who described exactly that path. He described how he got hired in an entry-level position at a fast food restaurant, developed skills, advanced, and then he was hired as an assistant manager and then as a manager. After that, he saved up and bought his own restaurant.
It was interesting. There were people--and some of the franchise owners had pretty extensive backgrounds. I think there was one fellow who had 27 fast food restaurants. So there were some people who were very successful businesspeople.
I remember this African-American gentleman who had relatively recently saved up to buy his first restaurant that he owned and the pride he justifiably felt--and the pride I felt. I mean, what an incredible country. What was interesting is that he described the exact same challenges as the fellow who owned 27 restaurants and was far wealthier and had a far bigger business.
What all of them said as we were going around the table was that ObamaCare is devastating. They didn't say it was sort of a little problem. They didn't say it was making life more difficult. They said: It is devastating. It is going to put us out of business. We don't know what to do. This is a disaster for our business.
A March 2013 Federal Reserve report on current Federal economic conditions explains that employers in several Federal Reserve districts cited the effects of the ObamaCare act as reasons for planned layoffs and reluctance to hire more staff.
In May 2013 Moody's economist Mark Zandi noted a slowdown in small business hiring due to ObamaCare.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in the second quarter of 2013 small business survey, found that Washington policies continue to hamper hiring and growth, with over a quarter of small businesses saying they had lost employees in the last year. They cited health care as the very top concern.
Concern about ObamaCare has increased by 10 points since June of 2011 and by 4 points just last quarter. Seventy-one percent of small businesses say the health care law makes it harder to hire. Only 30 percent say they are prepared for the requirements of the law--including participation in the marketplaces.
Among small businesses that will be impacted by the employer mandate, one-half of small businesses say they will either cut hours to reduce full-time employees or replace full-time employees with part-time workers to avoid the mandate. Twenty-four percent say they will reduce hiring to stay under 50 employees.
I want to repeat those numbers because those numbers are deeply troubling. Among small businesses that will be impacted by the employer mandate, one-half--50 percent--say they will either cut hours to reduce full-time employees or replace full-time employees with part-time workers to avoid the mandate. We are not talking about a few small businesses, we are talking about half of them. Twenty-four percent say they will reduce hiring to stay under 50 employees. That is a disaster for small business, it is a disaster for jobs, and it is a disaster for American families who are struggling.
The outlook for hiring remains grim. The majority--61 percent--of small businesses do not have plans to hire next year.
A Grand Rapids, MI, company reported that they had to lay off over 1,000 people due to the ObamaCare medical device tax. Let's think about that. In Grand Rapids, MI, there are 1,000 people out of a job directly because of ObamaCare. Now let's think of their spouses and their kids. One of the major breadwinners in their family lost his or her job because of ObamaCare.
On September 18, 2013, the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic announced that it would cut jobs and slash 5 to 6 percent of its $6 billion annual budget to prepare for ObamaCare. This is not just impacting fast food restaurants, this is impacting everyone. The Cleveland Clinic has a $6 billion annual budget, and yet they are forced to fire employees. The Cleveland Clinic is Cleveland's largest employer.
Every 4 years during the Presidential election, both parties purport to care passionately about what happens in the great State of Ohio. Both parties focus and descend on Ohio--and a handful of other swing States--as the center of the universe. Yet, as we sit here now in 2013--not a Presidential election--somehow the concern about what is happening to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio has diminished. The Cleveland Clinic is Cleveland's largest employer, and it is the second largest employer in the State of Ohio after Walmart.
I would suggest that if all of the folks from this body and the political parties who descend on Ohio every 4 years are genuinely concerned about what is occurring in Ohio in a non-Presidential year
we should see the floor of this Senate filled with Senators concerned about the impact ObamaCare is having directly on Cleveland and the State of Ohio.
Cleveland Clinic is responsible for 80 percent of the economic output of northeast Ohio, according to a 2009 study. It is the largest provider in Ohio of Medicaid health coverage for the poor, the program that will expand to cover uninsured Americans under ObamaCare.
The Cleveland Clinic has close to 100 locations around the State. They employ 3,000 doctors. Its main campus is recognized worldwide for its cancer and cardiovascular treatments.
(Ms. WARREN assumed the Chair.)
Madam President, some Members of this body might say: Well, these are hard times. Everyone is struggling, so maybe the Cleveland Clinic is responding to economic challenges. Who is to say what the Cleveland Clinic is doing has anything to do with ObamaCare? Well, the answer to that is, who is to say? The Cleveland Clinic is to say. A spokeswoman for the Cleveland Clinic said:
To prepare for health care reform, Cleveland Clinic is transforming the way care is delivered to patients.
She added that $330 million would be cut from the clinic's annual budget.
You want to talk about direct job losses from ObamaCare, go to Cleveland, OH, go to those working at the Cleveland Clinic, go to those depending on the Cleveland Clinic for health care, and that is one very real manifestation of the train wreck that is ObamaCare. According to the Star-Ledger, in a story printed on September 12, 2013, Barnabas Health, which employs over 19,000 people, is laying off employees. Why? Well, according to Barnabas Health, the reason is ObamaCare. According to a spokeswoman for Barnabas Health:
Healthcare reform, in combination with Medicare cuts, more patients seeking outpatient care and decreasing patient volumes--as a result, we have made the difficult decision to reduce our workforce. Decisions like this are never easy and we are working with these employees to help them look for other opportunities within the Barnabas Health system.
This is not us putting words in their mouth. This is people on the ground in the States dealing with the very real struggles and the disaster that is ObamaCare.
The problem we face in Washington is that our elected officials are not listening to us. We need to make DC listen. We need to make elected officials in both parties listen to the very real hardship that is coming from ObamaCare.
I would like to share a number of real constituent letters concerning ObamaCare. So this is not me speaking. As I said at the outset, the reason Congress is held in such disrepute, so little approval, is because for many years now elected officials in both parties have refused to listen to the people, and there is a sense of despair that no matter what the American people say, our elected officials will not listen because they are more interested in themselves, they are more interested in getting an exemption for Members of Congress from ObamaCare than they are on fixing the problem for the American people. And that level of disillusion is not irrational. It is based on a very real problem. Yet I am inspired that if and when the American people stand and make their voices heard, our politicians will have no choice but to listen.
I remember early on--Madam President, you and I are relatively new in this body. We have been here 9 months. I remember early on standing at this very desk along with my friend Senator Rand Paul in his historic 13-hour filibuster on drones. I remember when Senator Paul began that filibuster, many Members of this body viewed what he was doing as curious, if not quixotic, as a strange issue that most Members of this body, frankly, were not concerned about. We saw something incredible happen during that time, which is the American people got engaged, got involved, began speaking out, and it transformed the debate. As a result of the American people's involvement, it transformed the debate.
If you want Washington to listen, the only way that will happen is if it comes from the American people. So let me read some letters from American people who do not have the opportunity to come to the Senate floor. I hope in a very small way to provide a voice for them.
A small business from Alice, TX, wrote, on August 9, 2013:
We, the undersigned employees ..... are growing increasingly concerned with the apparent disregard for small businesses and the middle class that is on display by the United States government. We are trying to figure out how we are going to cope with the 14% increase in health insurance premiums we are facing, despite the fact that we have a lower average employee age and loss ratio than we have had at any point in our 21-year history. The increase is because of insurance companies preparing for new taxes and unreasonable requirements within ObamaCare.
On top of struggling to find the means to cover our own group of employees, our government now makes it clear that part of the massive amount of taxes we pay a year will be used to cover 75% of health insurance costs for Members of Congress AND their staffers. As waivers are granted daily, shielding ..... big business, unions, government agencies, and various other Affordable Care Act supporters, it is clear the burden will rest firmly on middle class small businesses like us. .....
We strongly encourage our elected officials to place a higher importance on public service than self-service.
Let me read that sentence again: ``We strongly encourage our elected officials to place a higher importance on public service than self service.''
We are hurting badly because of this, as are many disillusioned businesses with whom we communicate in our industry. Headlines nationwide report hiring freezes and layoffs due to increased costs on businesses large and small. The weight is too heavy at the worst time, and in result the economy will soon break. We urge Congress to defund or repeal the Affordable Care Act with no further delay. .....
That is not me speaking. That is from a small business in Alice, TX. I would note, that is not even the CEO speaking. That is a letter signed by the employees of that small business because they are hurting.
But let me note, it is not limited to the State of Texas. I guarantee you, there are people hurting in every one of the 50 States, every one of the States we represent.
A commercial real estate broker from Chesapeake City, VA, wrote, on September 20, 2013:
I also wanted to share with you how ObamaCare is affecting my business. I am a commercial real estate broker in Virginia and am already feeling the effects of this disastrous bill. I am currently in the process of analyzing an apartment portfolio for sale for a client and recently the occupancy has dropped dramatically in this class C low-income community. The community is not subsidized as these tenants are paying out of pocket for the rent. Most of the tenants work in fast food, janitorial, and low paying service related jobs. A great deal of them has had their hours cut to 29.5 hours per week and cannot pay the rent. Our occupancy has dropped as well as the income. Our management company has reached into the City of Richmond for rent assistance for these tenants but to no avail. Not only are these people going to be forced into government housing but my client will realize a smaller equity harvest. This is a disaster, and it affects everyone.
As you can see by this scenario, many are affected by this bill. Also, a class A franchisee with a national restaurant chain whom I represent is experiencing the pain from this bill. They are being forced to sell off to a larger franchisee because they cannot afford to comply with the requirements. I wish the American people understood how severely the economy will be impacted. Thank you for fighting the good fight. We are behind you.
Let me read again two sentences from that letter from a commercial real estate broker in Chesapeake City, VA: ``Most of the tenants work in fast food, janitorial, and low paying service related jobs. A great deal of them had their hours cut to 29.5 hours per week and cannot pay the rent.''
So they are losing their housing. I want you to think for a second about the spiral that comes from this. If you have someone who is working as a janitor, if you have someone who is working flipping burgers, if you have someone washing dishes, as my dad did, and they have their hours forcibly reduced to 29 hours a week, as so many people across this country are having happen because of ObamaCare, they cannot provide for their family on that, so they cannot pay the rent, as these people cannot. But not being able to pay the rent means some of them may move to government housing. And what is the answer? Look, they are losing their hours because of ObamaCare. The answer is not: Well, let's give them a rent subsidy. Let's tax people even more. First let's pass rules and laws and regulations that prevent people from getting decent jobs. Then let's jack up the taxes even more so we can pay them to subsidize their rent and subsidize their housing because they cannot afford to pay their rent, they cannot afford to pay their housing because of a law we passed that forcibly reduced their hours. That is the path to destruction in this country.
Far better that we get back to our founding principles, far better that we get back to what has made America great, which is our free enterprise system--a robust, free enterprise system that encourages small businesses to grow and to prosper, that encourages people working a job as a janitor to work hard and get a promotion and climb that ladder, to pay their own rent, to pay for their own food for their kids, to work and to advance.
These cries are coming from all across the country. Yet Washington is not listening. We need to make DC listen.
A small business owner from Port Clinton, OH, wrote, on September 19, 2013:
I strongly urge you to stand up for the middle class and small business and vote to DEFUND ObamaCare. As a small business owner, we have always offered health insurance. After meeting with our health insurance representative, we learned that the lowest coverage level of ObamaCare offered is estimated to be about $400 a person, twice what we pay now for excellent coverage. .....
With big business and government being exempted from this policy, again the SMALL BUSINESS OWNER and individual are left with all the costs for everyone else. This could well end up closing our business and then there will be 15 more individuals collecting from the government.
A constituent from Nacogdoches, TX, wrote, on May 29, 2013:
I need a little help here! Can you explain something to me? My health insurance premiums for my wife, three children and myself were $850 or so back in 2010. After ObamaCare was passed my premiums are now $1400 or so. This January, when ObamaCare is implemented it is estimated by Blue Cross Blue Shield I could see a 25% increase in premiums. That will be almost $1,800 a month for premiums plus on my HSA plan my deductible is $10,000. If my calculator is correct, that is $21,600 per year out of my pocket before the insurance company pays a penny.
I also own a small business and have four others on our group plan. If this cost increase is across the board with the others as well, my business will stop the benefit of insurance and each will be on their own to get coverage. I understood this health care overhaul would be a benefit. From where I am sitting it is only a burden. If you can, please repeal this before it gets worse.
We are hearing these voices from Americans all over the country, both Republicans and Democrats in this body. All we need to do is listen to the people. A veterinarian from Montgomery, TX, wrote on February 20, 2013:
I would like to bring to your attention a troubling development. I am a veterinarian, and in the past had to use a group health care policy offered by the American Veterinary Medical Association. I am currently under my husband's insurance. However, a number of my colleagues use one of the various plans AVMA offers. The AVMA insurance is being canceled at the end of the year. This decision is due directly to ObamaCare. Here is the text of that notification. Group Health and Life Insurance Trust Programs and New York Life attributes the program's demise to regulatory requirements put in place as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama in 2010.
Company officials told trustees that the challenges of complying with provisions of the law that take effect in 2014 are the primary reason New York Life opted to quit the association health insurance market entirely. New York Life has underwritten the American Veterinarian Medical Association Trust medical coverage for the past 20 years.
A number of veterinarians are contract labor, called relief veterinarians. These vets contract out on a daily or weekly basis to fill in for doctors at various clinics when someone takes a vacation or during seasonal business increases. Many of those vets do not have access to health care in any other way. This is a travesty. Perfectly good plans are being discontinued due to a perfectly awful law. This health care law is directly contributing to people losing their health care.
My husband and I made long-term plans to potentially retire early and use an AVMA plan until eligible for Medicare. We also had the safety net of the AVMA insurance if something happened with this job. For me, AVMA's decision is currently an inconvenience. However, it removes an option for me in the future. My colleagues on the other hand will likely be forced into inferior health care or pay penalties through no fault of their own.
We all remember President Obama told the American people: If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it. Even in these cynical days of politics, promises should mean something. For this woman and her husband, that promise is a hollow failure. She is losing her health insurance because of ObamaCare. That is not me saying that, not some politician saying that. That is from her own words.
The rules of the Senate will not allow her or any other small business owner to walk onto the Senate floor and speak out, to say: Why am I losing my health insurance? Why am I struggling? Why is my business going under? So I am doing my very best to in some small way help provide a voice for those people who are struggling, those people who are hurting.
But if this body were operating the way it should, there should be 100 voices; 100 of us, Democrats and Republicans, should be standing side by side reading letter after letter like this. You know what. These are our bosses. These are the people we work for. They are struggling.
These letters I am reading are not ideological letters. They are not coming from a partisan perspective. They are people who are seeing on the ground this law is not working.
Yet DC does not listen to them. The Democrats in this body tell America: ObamaCare is great. ObamaCare is terrific. I am sorry you lost your health care, but ObamaCare is terrific. The Republicans in this body, sadly more than a few of them, say: We will take lots and lots of symbolic votes against ObamaCare, but there is nothing we can do. If every Republican Senator stands together and votes no on cloture this Friday or Saturday, there is something we can do. We can stand and say: We are listening to the American people. This law is not working and people are suffering.
They are not interested in political games. They are not interested in show votes. They are not interested in the fact that if the majority leader succeeds in cutting off debate on this bill and there is a 51-vote threshold on an amendment to fund ObamaCare, at that point every Republican will happily vote no. That may be solicited from the personal political perspectives of the Republicans in this body, but it does not benefit the American people one iota. It does not benefit the American people. It does not stop ObamaCare. It does not fix the problem. That is what we should be doing.
A constituent from Euless, TX, wrote on July 3, 2013:
I have been disabled since 1997 and on a fixed income. My wife lost her job of 16 years in 2008 and was not able to find a good job so she was forced to take her Social Security last year at age 62. She is 41-year type I diabetic and her medical costs are expensive. Luckily, I was paying for medical and long-term disability insurance when I was working, which allowed me to continue the medical insurance with a company even after I became disabled.
I got a letter in May of this year informing me that I was going to lose that medical coverage come 2014. Since we are both on a fixed income, it will be impossible for us to maintain our mortgage and to start paying for all of our health costs. Repeal ObamaCare.
These are voices from the people. This is a disabled man, a senior couple who is suffering, who is losing their health insurance because of ObamaCare. Every one of us has an obligation to listen to people.
Look, I understand in Washington, in a football game we all cheer for our respective team. I cheer when the Houston Texans win a game. I am not generally thrilled, having grown up in Houston in the 1970s, when the Pittsburgh Steelers win a game, because I remember as a kid year after year seeing the Steelers sadly trounce the Oilers and the great Earl Campbell when the Steelers had one of the greatest football teams ever to play the game. I understand that. It is a good thing to cheer for your team.
In politics sometimes we cheer for our team too. So I understand the great many Democrats who take the view: Well, a Democratic President signed the law, Democrats passed the law on a straight party vote so we have got to cheer for our team. You know, I will note that more than a few Democratic Members of this body privately, when they are behind closed doors, are worried about what is happening to ObamaCare. They are seeing the problems. But yet publicly they are still cheering for their team.
This is not a team sport. This is life and death. There is a fundamental divide between the people and Washington. We need to make DC listen, listen to the people.
Mr. PAUL. Would the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. CRUZ. I am happy to yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. PAUL. You know, Senators do not always ask for advice from other Senators. I thought I would come down and make sure the Senator had comfortable shoes on, make sure he is getting enough to eat--try not to eat on television. That is a little free advice that sometimes shows up.
But my question relates to ObamaCare. I think the Senator has done a good job of bringing attention to something I think is going to be a real tragedy for the country. As we get involved with this, there is so much talk about tactics and this or that, whether now is the right time, when is the right time to do this, but I think the question is, do we need to talk about something that is going to affect 16 percent of our economy, one-sixth of our economy? Do we need to bring up an issue? Do we need to draw attention and try to stop something that could be damaging to the people precisely it is intended to help?
I think it is personally not a good idea to shut down government. I think it is also, though, not a good idea to fund ObamaCare. Can they both go together? Can you do one without the other? Some, like the President, have said: Oh, Republicans, they just want 100 percent of what they want or they are going to shut down government.
Well, can you say something so patently false and get away with it, is my question. The President wants 100 percent of what he wants. He wants ObamaCare as he passed it with only Democrats. He wants it never to be changed. He wants no compromise. He wants what he wants or he is willing to shut down the government. That is what this debate is about.
ObamaCare was passed with only Democrats, no Republican input, no Republican votes. When people are saying there are problems, his own people are saying there are problems. The Teamsters have said there is a problem. Authors of the bill are saying it is a train wreck. The former President came out this week and said: It is going to hurt the people it was intended to help.
So we have got all of these people saying: For goodness sakes, slow this train down. Stop this train. Stop this train wreck of ObamaCare. All everybody cries about is: Oh, somebody wants to shut down the government. The President does not want to compromise.
What we are talking about is, we do not want to spend money on something that is not going to work and hurt the people--precisely the people it was intended to help. But the thing is, how do we fix it? What do we do? Can we scrap the whole thing? Well, the Democrats control one body, we control the other body, they control the Presidency.
Historically what would happen, and what I think the American people would like to see is, we stand up, as the Senator from Texas is, and say what we are for. We are for a different solution. We are for competition. We are for the free markets. We are for bringing health care to everyone with a lower price. We went through this whole debacle of giving people ObamaCare and it is going to be expensive. Everybody is going to pay more.
Many people still will not have insurance. The ones who do have insurance are going to pay more. So what would we like? Why are we here today? Why is the Senator from Texas here today? To say to the President: We need to talk. What does the President say? He says: My way or the highway.
When the American people said they want dialog between Republicans and Democrats, how do we get there? We have to stand for what we believe in so they will come and talk. Does it mean we are going to get 100 percent of what we want? No. But if we do not stand for what we believe, how will we have any dialog? How will we get to compromise? How do we get them to talk to us? We are not asking for 100 percent of what we want, but we are asking for a dialog. How do we get the dialog unless someone is willing to stand and say: Enough is enough. When we look at this, if we want to ever get to the point of getting to compromise, the only way we get there is by standing and saying we believe in this.
It isn't about us demanding 100 percent of what we want. But right now, if you look at this objectively, the President is getting 100 percent of what he wants--ObamaCare passed only by Democrats, not one Republican vote. Really, how do we get to what the American people want, which is dialog and compromise? We have to look at a deadline. We have a deadline.
My question to the Senator from Texas is whether he wants to shut down the government. Is that his intention or is it the President's intention to shut down the government or is it that perhaps when deadlines come forward, that is a good time for dialog because no one ever seems to talk at any other time?
I would ask the Senator from Texas, what are his intentions? Does he want to shut down the government or would he like to find something to make ObamaCare less bad? I know we would both like to repeal it, but would the Senator accept anything in between?
Mr. CRUZ. I thank the Senator from Kentucky for his very fine question. Let me say at the outset before I respond directly to the question that I remember not too many months ago standing on this same Senate floor in the midst of the Senator's historic filibuster. I will say it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Indeed, during that filibuster on drones, that was the first time I had ever spoken on the Senate floor.
I have observed multiple times that I will go to my grave in debt to Rand Paul, to have the opportunity for the first time--and there will only be one first time that anyone gets to speak on this floor--to have that first time be in support of that tremendous filibuster that mobilized and unified the American people.
I will note that one of the things I remember the Senator shared with me afterward was the advice he just gave a minute ago. I remember asking: What do you think? The Senator was pretty weary at the end. His comment at the time was, well, I wish I had worn more comfortable shoes. I will confess I thought about that. That struck me as pretty good advice.
I am going to make an embarrassing admission right now. I will get to the question in a second, but I wanted to make an embarrassing admission first. For many years, when I was in private practice and when I was solicitor general, I wore a particular pair of boots, my argument boots. They were black ostrich boots. Litigators are kind of superstitious, so anytime I went into court to argue a case I wore my argument boots. I had them resoled four or five times.
When I had the great honor of serving in this body, of being sworn into the Senate, when I was sworn in standing on the steps just in front of us, I wore my argument boots. I have worn them every day since. I don't believe there has been a day on this Senate floor that I haven't worn my argument boots.
I had a choice with which I was confronted, which was do I follow through and wear my argument boots or do I listen to the very sage counsel from my friend from Kentucky and go with more comfortable shoes. I will embarrassingly admit that I took the coward's way out. I went and purchased some black tennis shoes. Actually, I think they are the same model the senior Senator from Utah Orrin Hatch wears on a regular basis. I am not in my argument boots, and I will confess I do feel pretty embarrassed by that. I am pretty sure, since we are on the Senate floor and C-SPAN is covering it, that this may not be covered by the priest-penitent privilege, but I do feel it is a question of sorts.
The question Senator Rand Paul asked was an excellent question. His question was whether I or anyone here wishes to shut down the government. The answer is absolutely not. We should not shut down the government. We should fund every bit of the government, every aspect of the government, 100 percent of the government except for ObamaCare. That is what the House of Representatives did. The House of Representatives--232 Members of the House, including 2 Democrats--voted to fund every bit of the Federal Government, 100 percent of it, except for ObamaCare.
I would note that last night on the floor of the Senate, I asked the majority leader to consent to passing the continuing resolution the House passed, passing it into law. Had the majority leader not stood there and said: I object, the continuing resolution would be passed into law and the government would not be shutting down. The majority leader had every opportunity to not shut down the government.
Let me be absolutely clear. We should not shut down the government. I sincerely hope Senator Reid and President Obama do not choose to force a government shutdown simply to force ObamaCare on the American people. That would be a mistake. Instead, what we should do is listen to the American people. Make DC listen.
Mr. PAUL. Would the Senator yield for one quick question?
Mr. CRUZ. I am happy to yield for a quick question without yielding the floor.
Mr. PAUL. Since we are making it clear, the Republican message and alternative here is not to shut down the government; our desire is to have no ObamaCare. We desire not to have it. We think he went in the wrong direction. But we don't control the government. We don't control the government. We don't control the Senate. It is controlled by the opposition party. We don't control the Presidency.
My question to the Senator is, If he can't get everything he wants, if he can't defund ObamaCare, which is exactly what he and I both agree on, and millions of people across America want us to get rid of ObamaCare, if the Senator can't, if he stands today and argues and cannot get rid of it, will he accept a compromise? Will he work with the President and will he work with the majority leader if they are willing to come and say: You know, you are right. We messed up on a bunch of this. There are a lot of people who are going to be hurt by ObamaCare. A lot of part-time workers are going to lose their jobs or are going to lose hours. There are going to be real workers who are full time who are going to lose their insurance or lose their jobs. Is the Senator willing to work with us? Is he willing to work with the leader, Senator Reid, and with the President to find a compromise?
Mr. CRUZ. I thank the Senator from Kentucky for that question. I think it is a very good question.
This afternoon the Senator and I and all the Republican Members of the conference spent some 2 hours in a closed-door strategy session. I am not going to reveal what anyone else said there, but I certainly feel comfortable revealing what I said there, which is that if we are going to make real progress in solving the problem that is ObamaCare, in listening to the American people and mitigating the job losses, with people losing their health insurance, all of the harms that are coming from ObamaCare, we have to stand and fight right now.
The battle before this body is the cloture vote that will occur on Friday or Saturday of this week. If all 46 Republicans vote together in unity to support the House Republicans and to deny Majority Leader Reid the ability to fund ObamaCare on a straight party-line vote, that puts us in a position to address the problem.
The Senator's question was would I vote for something less than defunding ObamaCare. Personally, no. Why? Because I have committed publicly over and over to the American people that I will not vote for a continuing resolution that funds one penny of ObamaCare.
I am reminded of when I first arrived in the Senate. I spent 2 years campaigning for the Senator from Kentucky. Senator Paul campaigned with me in Texas over and over.
If you want to talk about a rock star, you should see, when Rand Paul shows up in Texas, the huge number of fans who come out for Senator Paul and for his dad.
I spent 2 years campaigning in Texas saying: The first bill I will introduce in Congress will be a bill to repeal ObamaCare.
When I showed up, there were lots of reporters. I introduced the bill to repeal ObamaCare.
They immediately said: Well, why did you do that?
My response: Well, I spent 2 years campaigning telling the American people that would be first bill I would introduce.
They were utterly befuddled why anyone would actually do what they said.
In answer to the Senator's question of whether I will vote for something that is a middle ground that funds ObamaCare partially, no. Why? Because, as I have repeatedly told the American people, as I have told Texas, I will not vote for a continuing resolution that funds ObamaCare. But that being said, are there Members of our conference who would like to see a compromise, who would like to see a middle ground that is perhaps not what I very much want and will fight for with every ounce of strength I have but that mitigates some of the damage of ObamaCare, that responds to the people who are suffering from ObamaCare, I think there are quite a few Senators who would like to see that happen.
If Republicans roll over on the cloture vote on Friday or Saturday, if we allow the majority leader to fund ObamaCare with 51 votes, we will get no compromise. There will be no middle ground because there will be no reason to compromise. It is much like a poker game. I know the Senator from Kentucky--many of his libertarian supporters enjoy a good game of poker. As a Texan, I will admit to not being entirely adverse to it myself. In a game of poker, if somebody makes a bet and then says to you ``if you raise me, I am going to fold,'' you will lose 100 percent of your poker games. That is a path to losing.
For those Members of the Republican caucus who were perhaps not as adamant that we should insist on a complete and total defund now, I don't intend to waiver from that position, but there may be others who disagree.
If you want to get to any middle ground that is not a symbolic vote to tell our constituents but that actually changes the law to make things better for the men and women at home, to mitigate the harms of ObamaCare, the only way to do so is for Republicans to stand united and to deny the majority leader the ability to fund ObamaCare on a 51-vote partisan vote.
Mr. ROBERTS. Would the courageous Senator from Texas yield for a question?
Mr. CRUZ. I yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. ROBERTS. Let me ask the Senator a question to cut to the chase. Let's get to the bottom line. Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, our respected leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, because of his position, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and President Barack Obama have all said publicly that the Affordable Care Act is the first step to a single-payer system. Listen to the folks on the other side of the aisle, and many of them say the same thing.
We can call it a single-payer system, we can call it national health insurance, but is this not the first step toward socialized health care--socialized health care--and is stopping socialized health care worth pulling out all of the stops and fighting the fight?
Mr. CRUZ. I thank my friend from Kansas for that very fine question. He is exactly right. Socialized medicine is--and has been everywhere it has been implemented in the world--a disaster. ObamaCare--its intended purpose is to lead us unavoidably down that path.
I thank the Senator from Kansas for his good question on that front and for his leadership.
Listen, I commend the majority leader for his candor. I mean, there is a degree of courage in embracing socialized medicine. There are a number of Members of the Democratic caucus who embrace socialized medicine. I think every one of them shows courage and candor. I am very happy to debate in great detail whether socialized medicine would be good or bad for this Nation.
I don't think the American people are conflicted. If you look at the nations that have socialized medicine, everyplace it has been implemented you see low quality, you see scarcity, you see waiting periods, and you see government bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor. If you go in for government treatment, you may be told that you are going to have to wait 6 months, you are going to have to wait a year or, you know what. A bureaucrat in the ministry of whatchamacallit has determined you don't get that treatment. That is what has happened in every socialized medicine country in the world.
And so to those on the Republican side, those commentators who say this is a risky fight, I have never once suggested this is an easy fight. But in my 42 years on Earth, I have yet to see any fight that is worthwhile that is easy. In his years as a marine, I would venture to guess that Senator Roberts never saw a fight that mattered that was easy. None of us were elected to this body to do easy things.
If the majority leader is right, that leaving ObamaCare alone will necessarily lead us to socialized medicine because private health insurance will collapse--ObamaCare will collapse--and there will be nothing left, what a call to urgency. Indeed, I would say the majority leader, in making that argument, should be one of the most effective spokespersons for saying we ought to have 46 Republicans uniting and voting against cloture on this bill to say: No, we are not going to let a partisan Democrat vote fund ObamaCare because we are not going to be complicit in any way, shape or form with destroying private health insurance and forcing Americans into socialized medicine.
Let me note that in the meantime, even for those who somewhat serenely say: Fear not; this is going to collapse on its own. The process will inevitably be painful. Just a few minutes ago I read a letter from a constituent from Euless, TX, who is disabled and on a fixed income, whose wife has retired and who has lost his insurance because of ObamaCare. There are millions of Americans in Kansas, in Kentucky, in Alabama, in Texas, and in States all over this country who are worried right now because their health insurance is in jeopardy. In my view the decision of some Members of the Senate to say: Well, let ObamaCare collapse--either on the Republican side because when it collapses it will all just magically go away, or on the Democratic side because when it collapses it will lead us all to the perfect utopia of socialized medicine--is easy. It is easy for Members of this body to say such things from the cheap seats, particularly when the President has granted an exemption to Members of Congress from ObamaCare, where they feel that if the system collapses, if millions of Americans are suffering, it is not going to be us. It is not going to be our staff. The President has carved us out for special rules. It is just going to be the American people.
The most fundamental divide that is happening here is this body has stopped listening to the American people. We ought to have the urgency for this man and woman in Euless, TX, who is disabled and on a fixed income and retired and who wants to keep his health insurance, that we have for ourselves and our staffs. We ought to have that kind of urgency. And you know what. If it were our wife or our husband's health insurance, we wouldn't say: Let the system collapse because, in time, there will be a political victory. I guarantee if it were our spouse's, if it were our daughter's or son's health insurance, particularly if they had significant health issues, not one of us would be serene in saying: Let it collapse, because we want to immunize ourselves from the criticism or because we want to ultimately move to socialized medicine.
I think the stakes have never been higher. In my view, the cloture vote we will take on either Friday or Saturday of this week is the most important vote that I will have taken--I think that any Member of the Senate will have taken--in the 9 months I have served in this body because it goes fundamentally to: Will we respond to the suffering ObamaCare is causing? Will we respond to the millions of people who are jobless? Will we respond to the people getting forced into part-time work? Will we respond to the people who are losing their health care or will we continue to say: For me but not for thee. Different rules apply to Washington that apply to the ruling class. The President can grant exemptions to the big corporations and to Members of Congress, but hardworking American families, you guys are left in the cold. I would suggest that is a fundamental abdication of our responsibility. We are here--or we should be here--fighting for the people.
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. CRUZ. I am happy to yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. SESSIONS. By chance, or maybe because of the significance of it, my first question is very similar to what Senator Roberts had asked, because I have given a lot of thought to this. I haven't signed letters. I haven't said how I was going to vote on this issue. But it was called to my attention that Senator Reid, the majority leader, flatly stated a month ago he believed in a single-payer system.
They asked him: Is it the Senator's goal to move toward a single-payer system? And his answer is: yes, yes, absolutely yes.
I just left the Budget Committee hearing. We have a great team there, on the Republican and Democrat side, and my friend Sheldon Whitehouse and I had a little exchange about the new health care law, and I thought he was suggesting it wasn't much of a change. So I asked him this, I said: The majority leader said he favors a single-payer system. He said: I do too.
It wasn't long ago in the Budget Committee that Senator Bernie Sanders also said he favored a single-payer system. And Senator Roberts mentioned others. And of course the President did. I checked the President's quote from 2003. He has denied it since, when he was trying to get the votes to pass the new law, but in 2003 he said he was a proponent of a ``single-payer universal health system.''
I think this is a huge national issue. This new health care law is clearly driven by an agenda: to have a single payer. So I ask Senator Cruz: If there is a single payer, who will the payer be?
Mr. CRUZ. The payer is always the government, which ultimately means the taxpayer, hardworking American families.
Mr. SESSIONS. In other words, the Federal Government?
Mr. CRUZ. I will continue to yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. SESSIONS. Let me ask this. In other words, the government is going to be the one that pays for everything. In health care in America there will be only one payer, the government, and it would then, since it is a predominant power, be able to dictate health policy, such as in the socialized medical systems that have failed around the world; would it not?
Mr. CRUZ. The Senator is absolutely correct. Once the government is paying for health care, it controls health care. That has proven to be the case in every country in the world.
I agree with the Senator from Alabama that it is commendable that there are some Members of this body who openly embrace socialized medicine. That is commendable for candor. I don't agree with it as a policy matter, but I actually think there is virtue to speaking honestly about what it is you support and not occupying the middle ground, as those--to take a quote from Teddy Roosevelt slightly out of context--cold, timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
One of the problems in this debate over ObamaCare is the relatively few who are candid about what ObamaCare is designed to do. It is worth noting, as Senator Sessions has, that Majority Leader Reid is not a passive observer from the sidelines. He is the man responsible, in his role as majority leader, for passing ObamaCare through this body with only Democratic votes--without a single Republican vote. So when he says it is designed to lead to a single-payer system, when he says it is designed to lead to socialized medicine, we should trust that he knows what he is talking about.
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, if the Senator will yield again for a question.
Mr. CRUZ. I am happy to yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. SESSIONS. And is it not true--since Senator Reid has made his position crystal clear ideologically, and based on the actions the Senator from Texas and I have observed--that he has steadfastly resisted any change whatsoever in the legislation as passed, certainly any change that would constrict its power and reach?
Mr. CRUZ. I think Senator Sessions is exactly correct.
If we look at the way this vote is set up, Republicans are being asked to vote with majority leader Harry Reid to shut off debate on this bill. Any Republican who votes yes on Friday or Saturday to invoke cloture will be voting alongside majority leader Harry Reid to give Leader Reid the authority to fund ObamaCare using just 51 votes on a straight party-line vote, which is exactly how ObamaCare passed in the first place.
At the same time the majority leader has made clear he is not going to allow other amendments. He is not going to allow amendments that would improve ObamaCare or fix ObamaCare. He is not going to allow the amendment of Senator Vitter, as we talked about earlier, that would correct or get rid of the congressional exemption and treat Members of Congress the same as the American people, get rid of President Obama's lawless exemption, and stop treating Members of Congress like a privileged ruling class who are different from the American people. Leader Reid has said he is not going to allow a vote on that, not going to allow a vote on repealing the medical devices tax that has been crippling the medical devices industry, and that is killing innovation and killing jobs.
If Republicans are complicit in shutting off debate and allowing just a single vote on funding ObamaCare, then we have only ourselves to blame. If we give the majority leader the power to do that, we should not be surprised when he exercises it. It is within the power of the 46 Republicans in this body to say no, to say: No, we will not shut off debate that allows the majority leader to use 51 votes to fund ObamaCare on a straight party-line partisan Democratic vote. We will not be complicit in a process that treats Members of Congress like a privileged ruling class and that ignores the cries for help from the American people. All we have to do to accomplish that is for Republicans to stand together and stand united.
It is my hope, my fervent hope, that the voices of dissension within the Republican conference will stop firing at each other and start firing at the target. And let me be clear who the target is. The target is not Democrats. I don't want us to start firing at Democrats or at the President or at anyone else. It is not about us. The target is ObamaCare. It is fixing this train wreck that is hurting the American people.
If Members of the Republican conference in the Senate could devote one-tenth of the ferocity they have devoted to fighting within the caucus on this issue, to actually stopping ObamaCare--not a symbolic vote, not a press release, not a speech, but actually fixing the problem--I could think of nothing better this Senate could do.
And you know what. If, instead of 100 Senators, this Chamber had 100 citizens picked from our States at random, I guarantee not a one of them would say in discussing this: You know what we need is a bunch of symbolic votes. They wouldn't say that. Regular people who live on planet Earth would know a symbolic vote is not a good thing or bad thing. They would say, if we grabbed any hundred--and I wouldn't even have a partisan screen on it. I would grab 100 people at random, and I guarantee you they would say: We have to fix ObamaCare. This thing is hurting people.
The problem is too many Members of this body are not listening, and we need to make DC listen.
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, without yielding the floor, will the Senator yield for a further question?
Mr. CRUZ. I am happy to yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. SESSIONS. I notice a real low number of jobs being created this year. And the reports were that 77 percent of those jobs created this year were part-time, not full-time jobs.
Allan Meltzer, one of the great economists in the last 50 years, a knowledgeable observer of our economy, just testified in a Budget Committee maybe 3 hours ago that ObamaCare was a factor in that occurring.
Would the Senator agree that we have had this extraordinary increase in part-time jobs rather than full-time jobs, and that is hammering working Americans who need full-time work?
Mr. CRUZ. Senator Sessions is absolutely right. One of the most devastating consequences of ObamaCare is that it is forcing so many Americans into part-time work. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce 2013 second quarter small business survey found that among small businesses that will be impacted by the employer mandate, 50 percent of small businesses say they will either cut out to reduce full-time employees or replace full-time employees with part-time employees to avoid the mandate, and 24 percent say they will reduce hiring to stay under 50 employees.
As Senator Sessions knows, this is not one isolated anecdote here or there. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, this is 50 percent of small businesses reducing employees' hours forcibly or just hiring part-time employees instead. This is an enormous problem. Who gets hurt? When someone gets their hours reduced to 29 hours a week, it is never the CEO. It is usually not the lawyers. It is usually not the professionals. It is absolutely never Senators and Members of Congress.
The people whose hours get forcibly reduced are almost always, without exception, the vulnerable among us. They are the young, they are the Hispanics, the African Americans, the single mom working in a diner, struggling to feed her kids, to be a good example to her kids, who suddenly finds instead of having one job where she works her fingers to the bones to take care of her kids, she has to get two because 29 hours a week is not enough to provide for her kids. Suddenly she has two jobs, both at 29 hours a week. She has to commute from one to the other. She has to deal with two bosses. Boss No. 1 says: I want you at work Tuesday morning. Boss No. 2 says: I want you at work Tuesday morning. What is a single mom supposed to do?
Earlier this afternoon I read from a constituent's letter talking about low-income housing in Virginia, where a significant percentage of the residents were janitorial or service industry workers and were paying their rent out of their own pocket. Because of ObamaCare, because of having their hours reduced, they weren't able to pay the rent. I will read two sentences from a constituent letter from a commercial real estate broker in Chesapeake City, VA.
Most of the tenants work in fast food, janitorial, and low-paying service-related jobs. A great deal of them had their hours cut to 29.5 hours per week and cannot pay the rent.
So they are losing their apartments and being forced to live elsewhere. This is a tragedy playing out across this country, and it is incumbent on this body to listen to the people. We need to make DC listen.
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, will the Senator yield for a question without yielding the floor?
Mr. CRUZ. I will yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. SESSIONS. I know the Senator is aware that the number of people employed in the workforce today has fallen to the lowest level since 1975 and wages have declined. We learned today in our Budget Committee hearing we have had a surge from around 300,000 people working part-time to 1 million.
These are bad trends, but one place has avoided that; that is, the Washington, DC, area. It has had more job growth, higher income job growth than any place in America.
If this bill becomes entrenched into law, will it not create a huge additional increase of government workers and bureaucrats in and around this city, all riding on the backs of American workers?
Mr. CRUZ. The Senator from Alabama is absolutely correct. One of the disturbing trends we have seen in recent years is the boom business in our economy is government. There are lots of consequences to that; one is that the best and the brightest learn, hey, you want to have success, go into government. The private sector? That is apparently not what America is about.
Look right now at government employees who are paid substantially more than their counterparts in the private sector. It is one of the reasons Senator Vitter's amendment would say that Members of Congress shall be subject to the same rules as the American people and not have the special exemption President Obama has put in place is so important and why I support an even broader amendment that would include all Federal employees on the ObamaCare exchanges.
Our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle routinely say ObamaCare is terrific, it is great. If that is the case, then Members of Congress should be excited about being on those exchanges, which are apparently so great for our constituents, and so should Federal workers. But they are not, indeed, as the Senator from Alabama knows well.
This issue has caused more consternation among Members and congressional staff than probably any other issue because people are quite rightly afraid of losing their health insurance and losing their coverage.
That concern is not irrational. There are many good public servants, congressional staffers who are Federal employees, even who are Members of the
Senate. It is not irrational at all for them to be concerned about losing their health insurance and forced onto poor-quality health insurance. But that desire shouldn't push us to say let's exempt them. We don't want to be subject to it. That desire should push us to fight for hard-working American families. That desire should say: If we don't want to be on the exchanges, let's not make anyone else be on them. That divide between Washington--the ruling class--and the American people is the most significant reason for the disillusion we see.
The view from Americans all over this country--and this is true of conservatives and liberals--is that Washington doesn't listen. Politicians don't listen. We just had an August recess. A significant number of Members of this body held no townhalls, didn't go back and listen to their constituents. You can't fault Americans for saying politicians don't listen to us when, in fact, politicians don't listen to us. That is what this fight is about.
If it is just up to Washington, we are not going to have to do anything to stop ObamaCare. For one thing, Members of Congress and their staff are exempted so there is no urgency. But if we listen to the American people, there is urgency. That is why it is so critical that we make DC listen.
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, if the Senator would yield for another question.
Mr. CRUZ. I would be happy to yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. SESSIONS. I know the Senator is aware that Senator Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, a long-time Senator who I believe has announced he is not going to run again but shepherded this legislation through the Senate and worked in many ways to try to make it better--lost some battles in that time--has referred to this as a ``train wreck'' because there are so many things going wrong right now. Did the Senator hear that from him?
It seems to me we are at a point where we have to push hard. That is the conclusion I have come to, and I will ask the Senator's opinion. It seems to me we are at a position where we need to push hard to force discussion of this legislation because the majority leader wants to make it even bigger government, to take it even further. He is blocking and going to resist any attempt to have real debate, real amendments being offered. He will not allow votes, and he is going to fill the tree and otherwise dominate the Senate so we can't even have the classic debate and amendments and votes to improve this train wreck of a law.
Is that the way the Senator sees the situation we are in today?
Mr. CRUZ. Senator Sessions is absolutely correct. I would note, first of all, the Senate Democrat who is the lead author of ObamaCare has referred to ObamaCare's implementation as ``a major train wreck.'' That is not I speaking. That is not Senator Sessions speaking. That is the lead author of ObamaCare, a Democratic Senator.
I commend his candor. It is indeed a major train wreck. I have no doubt that more than a few of his colleagues on that side of the aisle were unhappy with him for speaking the truth on that.
There should be a lot more truth-speaking in this body, not engaging in partisan team politics but speaking the truth for the American people. That was commendable for Senator Baucus to speak for the American people and say this is a major train wreck. We need to all acknowledge it is a major train wreck and then step forward to avert the train wreck.
Senator Sessions' second point is a very important one. I note Senator Sessions is an elder statesman in this body, has served admirably a great many years, fighting for the citizens of Alabama, and is well experienced when a day a time existed when the Senate operated like a deliberative body, where Senators would speak and offer amendments and amendments could be considered. That doesn't occur now.
The practice Senator Sessions referred to, and I suspect some folks may not be familiar with, is called filling the tree. Filling the tree has become commonplace. Filling the tree is a procedural and parliamentary tree that only the majority leader can do. The majority leader has a privileged role under the Senate rules in that he has priority of recognition, the ability to insist he is the first Senator on the floor to be recognized.
Filling the tree enables him to do what he has said he is going to do on this bill, which is file an amendment to fund ObamaCare in its entirety and then fill the tree so no other Senator can offer any amendments, so the other 99 Senators are muzzled, we can't offer amendments to improve ObamaCare, we can't offer amendments to fix ObamaCare, and we can't offer amendments to do anything. Indeed, the more liberal Members of the Democratic caucus can't offer amendments to adopt a single-payer socialized medicine system, which some of them openly embrace. That is a sign of a Senate that is not working.
There should be open debate and there should be open amendments. One of the great strengths of this body is that all 100 Senators for most of the history of the Republic could offer any amendment at virtually any time. That has all but disappeared. Why has it disappeared?
For folks who are at home watching this debate, it is easy to let the procedure make your eyes glaze over. When you hear someone talk about invoking cloture on the motion to proceed, it is utterly incomprehensible to virtually anyone in the country. Indeed, I suspect more than a few people on the floor of the Senate right now don't quite understand what it means.
But what is all the procedure about? Why should you care about filling the tree? You should care about it because it is a tool of power, of silencing the people, and using the positions of power to enforce Washington's ideological view on the rest of this country.
If we got out of Washington, DC, if we went to the American people and said what are your top priorities--we actually have. We don't have to hypothesize about that. The American people over and over again say jobs and the economy are their top priorities. The American people want ObamaCare stopped because it is not working, it is killing jobs, it is pushing people into part-time work. Yet this Senate has not been listening to the American people.
We need to make DC listen.
Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. CRUZ. I am happy to yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. SESSIONS. I would also observe, and the Senator probably is aware, it does appear there is a budget point of order against this whole continuing resolution. I want to mention a couple of things.
I want to thank the Senator for having the courage to stand here and raise the concerns I am hearing all over my State. I had three separate meetings in August, as I traveled the State, with small business groups. It is difficult to overstate the concerns they have with this law. They tell me without a doubt it is impacting their willingness to hire and the uncertainty in the workplace is damaging business in America, and they are passionate about it.
They are struggling to get by. They are laying off people and they are not happy about it. They say this law alone is the primary thing that is hammering them in this country. I have given a lot of thought to it. I am beginning to see that we have to use the opportunities we have to confront this issue and talk about it and try to force some changes and improvements.
I appreciate the effort, and I am going to support the Senator. I am going to oppose any advancing of the final bill that does not provide some change in ObamaCare.
I did not sign the letter, and have some great friends who see it differently than I do who likewise are totally opposed to the health care law. I want to be sure people who are listening need to know good people, I think, can disagree on this. But the Senator stood up and raised the question and forced us to confront it and talk about it and I think it is good. I intend to support him. I am not going to vote to move a bill where we are sure we are going to be blocked from having any meaningful discussion on one of the most historic, damaging laws in maybe the last hundred years that would basically move us to single-payer, government-run socialized medicine. I think that is where we are heading.
I thank the Senator for his leadership. Hopefully we can begin to force this Senate to act. The House has already acted. They have repeatedly acted to fix this legislation, because it is so damaging. But the Senate, the Democratic Senate, refuses to act. It refuses to listen. That is the problem I have. One way I have to express that is to support the position the Senator has taken.
I thank him very much and wish him good luck.
Mr. CRUZ. I thank the Senator from Alabama for his question and fundamentally for his support. His support is very needed. Senator Sessions is a man who is respected in this body. He commands the respect of his peers.
If you read the newspapers, the votes have already been decided. If you watch the TV commentators, I read one newspaper article--it was actually styled a news article--that talked about the ``effort to defund ObamaCare, which is doomed to fail.''
That was the lead, the opening line of what purported to be an objective news article. A lot of folks in official Washington and the Washington establishment have said there is no way this can happen.
Three weeks ago they said there is no way the House is going to vote to defund ObamaCare. Three weeks ago you read it was impossible, cannot happen, will not happen. Yet on Friday the House voted overwhelmingly to defund ObamaCare.
This week it is all the same pundits. A funny thing: Everyone who said it is impossible in the House--apparently there are no consequences for their being proved laughingly, totally, completely wrong. And they all come out with the same certainty, the same deep baritone voices, to say it is impossible that the votes will be there in the Senate. Republicans will not stand together.
Let me point to just a minute ago. Senator Jeff Sessions who, as he knows, was not on the letter Senator Mike Lee circulated, was not initially part of the group--according to all of the press, anyone who was not on the letter was necessarily going to oppose us, and Senator Sessions is here, courageously standing, and I appreciate his leadership, his principle, and his courage. I am going to suggest this debate is having exactly the function it is supposed to.
Back when this body was in fact the world's greatest deliberative body, as it was reputed to be, debates were about moving hearts and minds and making the case. How can we best serve the American people? Now, sadly, debates usually occur in an empty Chamber and the Washington establishment tells us this is the result of the vote before it happens.
Let me note for those of you keeping score at home, the momentum has consistently been in favor of defunding ObamaCare. Two months ago everyone said it was impossible, the American people were not behind it, the House was not behind it, the Senate was not behind it, it could not happen. We saw the American people unite. We saw over 1.6 million Americans sign a national petition, we saw the House unite, and now the Senate must unite, and I am grateful to Senator Sessions for his leadership and his support.
Mr. RUBIO. I thank the Senator for his efforts here today and in the weeks that led us here. I ask the Senator from Texas--let me preface this by saying so much of the focus--if you read the coverage, all the focus is on what is going to happen, the process, the votes, who is going to vote what. I think that is important and I think we will have a conversation about that in the moments to come.
What I am most enthusiastic about in the last few hours is there is an increasing focus on why. Why are people so passionate about ObamaCare, particularly those who are opposed to it? Why is there a growing number of Americans coming out and saying ObamaCare is a bad idea? Why are Republicans united against ObamaCare?
Let's be clear. We do have a tactical debate going on in the Republican Party about the right way to stop ObamaCare. What there is no debate about among Republicans is this is a bad idea for the country. Why are we so passionate about that? I only speak for myself in what I am about to say, and I think it speaks for others. I will ask the Senator from Texas to comment in a moment about that. I think sometimes when you are born and raised, as I have been, your whole life in this country, speaking for myself, sometimes it is easy to take for granted how special America is because this is all you have known, this is all we have ever been around so we take that for granted a little bit.
I had a blessing, similar to the same one the Senator from Texas had. I actually grew up around people who knew what life was like somewhere else. They knew what America had is special because they lived somewhere else and they knew what the world was like outside of America. It is a reminder that what makes America different and special from the rest of the world is that it is one of the few places in human history where no matter where you start out in life, no matter how poor you were, no matter how poor your parents were, no matter how disconnected they may be from power, if you are willing to work hard and you are willing to sacrifice, you can have a better life.
For us Americans, that seems, of course, right. That is the way it has always been. It is not. In fact, for almost all of human history that has not been the case. In much of the world that is still not the case. For almost all of human history almost everyone who has ever lived is basically trapped by whatever they were born into. If your parents were poor, you were poor. If your parents were farmers, you were a farmer. I want you to think about what that means for a moment. Imagine for a second--because all of us have dreams and hopes, when you are young, especially. Imagine for a second if you are someone with talent and dreams and aspirations and ambitions but knowing that in the society you live in, none of that matters because you are not from the right people. You don't come from the right family. Imagine how frustrating that must be.
That is the story of humanity up until about 200 years ago when the American experiment began, based on something very powerful the Senator from Texas talked about a moment ago, the idea that every single one of us has a God-given right to go as far as our talent and our work will take us.
The result is the most extraordinary story in all of human history. I point that out today because I remember growing up knowing my parents wanted me to clearly understand that I would have a chance to do things they never had a chance to do because I lived in an extraordinary place unlike any that had ever existed before.
Fast forward to today and the challenges we face as a country. The one thing that most worries me as I analyze American politics and the state of our country is there is a growing number of people who are starting to doubt whether that dream is still true; a growing number of people who are starting to wonder is it still true that if you work hard and you sacrifice, you can get ahead. Do you know why they are doubting that? Because they are working hard, they are working harder than they ever have, they are sacrificing, and not only are they not getting ahead, they are struggling to keep from falling behind.
There are a lot of reasons why this is happening. Globalization has changed the nature of our economy. So have advances in information technology. We have an emerging skills gap in this country where unfortunately many Americans have not acquired the skills needed for these new jobs in the 21st century. We have to address these things. Societal breakdown is real. It is having an impact. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of poverty in the United States, and that is troubling too.
But for those of us who are in the Federal Government and in the policymaking branch of government, I think it is time we realize that one of the leading threats to the American dream is the policies that are being pursued at the Federal level, policies that are undermining the free enterprise system. Here is why that is important--because the only economy, the only economic system in human history that rewards hard work, sacrifice, and merit is the American free enterprise system. The evidence is all over the world. Look all over the world at people whose families have lived in poverty for generations, who now have joined the middle class. They live in countries that are trying to copy the American economic example. They don't live in countries that embrace socialism, they don't live in countries that embrace big government. They live in places that are trying to move toward free enterprise. Free enterprise has eradicated more poverty than all the government programs in the world combined. That is the story of free enterprise. That is why it is startling that over the last few decades, Federal policies have contributed steadily to undermining the free enterprise system.
We talk about all those policies, but ObamaCare is an example of that. You ask yourself how does ObamaCare undermine the free enterprise system? There are a few examples. First, because of the disruptive costs and rules created by ObamaCare, there are thousands of middle-class jobs that will not be created. These are jobs that were going to be created that someone wanted to create. I met a restaurant owner. I think he was from Louisiana. He testified before the Small Business Committee. He wants to open new restaurants. He has specific sites in mind. He knows he can make it work. He is not going to do it and he cites ObamaCare as the reason why. Those are jobs that were going to be created that do not now exist because of ObamaCare. That undermines the free enterprise system.
ObamaCare has a mandate. It has already been discussed here on the floor. It says if you have more than 50 full-time workers, you have to live by a bunch of mandates that it creates. Do you know what the result of that has been? Businesses close to that number are deciding I don't want to have 50 employees, I want to have 48 or 49 so that doesn't apply to me because I can't afford for it to apply to me. Do you know what that means? That means those were jobs that were going to be created or those are jobs that were there but now they are part time. That means you lost money out of your paycheck.
It also has redefined, ObamaCare has redefined what part-time work is. An American economic reality is that part-time work is anything less than 40 hours, except for ObamaCare, anything less than 30 hours. So what is happening? People working part time are losing their hours.
Real world example. Sea World in Florida just announced it is moving over 2,000 of its part-time employees from 32 hours a week to 28 hours a week. That is not just a statistic. These are people who are losing 4 hours' worth of pay a week.
The very people that this bill is supposed to be helping, the working class and middle class--the people who are trying to get ahead--are the people it is directly hurting. That is just one example. There are multiple examples. Senator Cruz and I could cite examples all night of real people who will be hurt in this way.
I have one more point that has not been talked about enough. Medicare Advantage is a program that gives seniors choices. It has competition. There are different companies that provide Medicare Advantage benefits, and they compete for the business of seniors by offering additional benefits.
My mom is a Medicare Advantage recipient. She is heavily marketed every year because--like all seniors are in that area--they want her business. How do they compete? They offer transportation, free pharmaceuticals, or whatever it may be. Well, guess what. ObamaCare takes money out of Medicare Advantage, not to save Medicare but to fund ObamaCare. Later this year--in early January--these seniors are going to get a letter in the mail saying that their Medicare Advantage plan no longer offers X, Y, or whatever some of these benefits are. That is just another example of who is hurt by this.
Why are we passionate? Why are we here about this? Look, we have an ideological objection to the government being involved in such a widespread way in health care, but now it is beyond that. We are passionate about this opportunity that we have to stop ObamaCare because of the impact this is having on real people. At the end of the day, that is what we are fighting for. We are not fighting against ObamaCare, and we are fighting for these people.
By the way, the people we are fighting for includes people who voted for the President. This includes, by the way, people who didn't vote for me or the Senator from Texas or the Senator from Utah. We are fighting for them because they are going to be hurt by this.
If your dream is to open your own business one day and to grow it, ObamaCare will hurt you. It is going to make it harder for you to be able to do that. If your dream is to do what my parents did, which is to work a job so your kids could one day have a career, ObamaCare is hurting you too. It could cost you the insurance you have now that you are happy with. It could cost you hours out of your paycheck. It could cost you your very job.
What about if you are working part time while you go to school at night? If you are paying your way through school as a part-time worker, ObamaCare is going to hurt you. You are going to lose hours at work potentially because of ObamaCare. What if you graduated from college? You finished college and have done everything that has been asked of you.
What do we tell young people in America who go to school, get good grades, a degree, and dream of having a career and better life? What do they want to do? They want to graduate from college, get married, buy a house, and start a family. A lot of people are having to put that off for a lot of reasons. ObamaCare will be one of the reasons. You know why? Because that job or career you wanted to start may not be created now because of ObamaCare.
What if you worked your whole life--like the 3 million seniors who live in Florida--and are living with dignity, security, and stability, and can finally sign up for the Medicare Advantage plan, but now ObamaCare is hurting you? That is the irony in all of this. The very people they said this plan--this bill, this idea--would help are the very people it is hurting the most. That, by the way, is the experience of big government.
I know that big government sounds appealing sometimes when you are hurting and struggling to make ends meet and then a politician comes along and says: I'm going to create a new program called jobs for Americans and health care for everybody. When you are struggling, this stuff sounds enticing. The problem is it never works. Anytime and anywhere it has been tried, it has failed, and it will fail again. It doesn't work.
In fact, big government hurts the people who are trying to make it. If you are a multibillion-dollar corporation or a millionaire or billionaire, you may not like big government, but you can afford to deal with it. If you are a major corporation in America, you can hire the best lawyers in America to navigate whatever complex rules the government throws at you. If you really don't like it, you can hire the best lobbyist in this city to write the laws in your favor or try to get them written in your favor.
However, if you are trying to start a business by using the free wi-fi at Starbucks or you are using the spare bedroom in your home to start a business, you can't navigate all of that big government stuff. You can't afford to hire a lobbyist to get a waiver from ObamaCare. That is the irony of this. The very people that big government promises to help are the people it hurts the most, and we are seeing it again with ObamaCare.
Who is getting waivers from ObamaCare? The people who can afford to influence it. That is the experience of big government. It is the experience of ObamaCare, and that is unfair. That is just not fair. It is not fair that in America the people who are willing to work hard and sacrifice are not able to achieve a better life. That is wrong.
The only way to assure that those opportunities are there is to embrace the free enterprise system, not to undermine it or try to replace it with an expansion of government that in the end will collapse under its own weight. But that is the direction we are headed in right now.
You want to know what the biggest issue facing America politically is? It is not whether Republicans or Democrats win the next election, it is whether we will continue to be an exceptional country where anyone from anywhere can accomplish anything or whether we will become like the rest of the world, just another powerful, rich country with a big economy, but no longer the place where hard work and sacrifice is enough. That is the choice we are being asked to make on issue after issue that comes before this body, and especially on this one.
I will yield back to the Senator from Texas by just saying this: My parents were never rich. I told this story before, but I tell it, not so much to talk about me, but to talk about us, because this is our story, not just mine. My parents were never rich. When they came here, they didn't know anybody. They had no money or connections. They barely spoke the language. When they first came here, they struggled. They were discouraged. Sometimes they wondered if they made a mistake. Sometimes they thought that maybe they should have stayed back in Cuba. Ultimately, they persevered and hung in there.
Ten years after they had been here, my dad was working as a bartender and my mom worked as a maid and a cashier. They bought their first home in 1966. In fact, by 1971, they were so optimistic about the future, that after both of them were over 40 years of age, they had me, and then my sister a year and a half after that. Talk about optimistic about the future. America fundamentally changed their lives because of free enterprise.
My dad had a job at those hotels because someone had access to money and risked it. They took a risk and said: I am going to invest this money into opening up a hotel because I believe in my idea. Because someone took a risk, my dad and my mom had a job. They weren't rich. We never owned multiple homes. We never had a yacht. We never traveled to Europe. There is nothing wrong with any of those things.
My parents lived the American dream. Why? Because they lived a life no one in their family history had ever lived in terms of stability and security, and they were able to provide opportunities for their children they themselves never had. That is the American dream. It is about being able to fulfill your God-given potential, whatever it may be, and it is what is at play right now.
There are millions of people in this country who are trying to achieve their American dream. There are millions of people across America who are trying to do what my parents were able to do for me and what Senator Cruz's parents were able to do for him. Our job is to make it easier for them to do it, not harder. Our job is to do everything we can to ensure that this is the one country on Earth where that is still possible.
When we pass bills such as ObamaCare, which claims to help people like this, we are not helping them. We are hurting them. If we hurt them, we hurt the country because there cannot be an America without an American dream. We can't be special and exceptional without the American dream, and that is what is being undermined by big government and by ObamaCare.
At the end of the day that is why we are so passionate about this, and that is why this is an issue worth fighting for.
The Senator from Texas was reading stories and cases earlier today that he heard from around the country, and that is what these people are telling us. That is what they are saying to us. They are saying: All we want is a chance to turn our dreams into reality. All we want is a chance to be able to work hard and sacrifice so we can achieve a better life. All we want is for you guys to give us a chance.
I ask the Senator from Texas: Isn't that what this issue is all about?
Mr. CRUZ. The junior Senator from Florida is absolutely correct. I agree entirely. Senator Rubio is inspiring. Senator Marco Rubio is a critical national leader. When Senator Mike Lee began this fight, Marco Rubio was there from day one. He was there from the beginning, despite the protests and despite official Washington saying that he should know better than to stand against the DC establishment and stand for the people.
I don't know if there is anyone more effective, more articulate, or a more persuasive voice for conservative principles than my friend Marco Rubio. His race in Florida 2 years ago was supposed to be impossible. I know that because I read it in the paper over and over.
Actually, many of the same people are saying this fight is impossible. They all said it with that same certitude and that same deep baritone voice: This young lad RUBIO has no chance of winning this race. If it were up to official Washington, they would have been right. By every measure of official Washington, the winner of that race that would have been picked was the governor of the State. All of Washington was behind him. The only thing that was standing with Marco Rubio was the people.
When he started, he was at 3 percent in the polls. That is a condition I know well because 2 years later I found myself in a similar position. Yet he ran a campaign where he crisscrossed the State of Florida. He listened to the Florida people and got support from the grassroots. His victory in 2010 was a transformational moment in American politics, and it is also emblematic about what this fight is about right here.
If you trust the talking heads on television, if you trust the reporters who tell us what is up and what is down, what is white and what is black, then ObamaCare is here to stay and America has to continue to suffer with it because we can never, ever do anything to change it. As long as this body, the Senate, believes the opinions of these 100 people in this room is more important than the American people, that will remain a true and accurate description. But that is not our job. Our job is to listen to the people.
Marco Rubio's parents were Cuban immigrants. His dad was a bartender. It was a family experience that resonates powerfully with me because I came from a similar background. But more important than that, Marco Rubio's story is the American story. There is not a Member of this Senate, or a person in this country, who doesn't have a story just like that somewhere in their background.
The most unique aspect of the United States of America, I believe, is that we are all the children of those who risked everything for freedom. I think it is the most fundamental aspect of our DNA and what it means to be an American. What unifies all of us is that as Americans we value liberty and opportunity above all else.
One of the things I admire about Senator Rubio is how he views issues in this Senate. He doesn't look at it from how it impacts the titans of industry, such as the CEOs, but from how it impacts people such as his dad and my dad, the people who struggled and climbed the economic ladder, seeking the American dream.
If today you are a bartender at a Nevada hotel or if you are washing dishes at a restaurant, like his father and my father, respectively, ObamaCare is hurting you. It is hurting you in a way that all the Senators who have a special exemption from Barack Obama don't have to worry about. It is hurting you because your job is in jeopardy. You may well lose your job or you may not have a job to begin with.
Maybe you would like to be a bartender or wash dishes, but because of ObamaCare, there is no job to hire you. Maybe it is hurting you because what used to be a 40-hour a week job has become a 29-hour a week job and your boss has told you: I don't have any choice. ObamaCare kicks in at 30 hours a week, and it will bankrupt me.
Suddenly you are struggling by either working 29 hours a week and are unable to feed your kids or have to get a second job and work 29 hours a week and have to juggle your schedule, which results in making your life more difficult than it was before--not to mention your concerns about health insurance. Maybe you have a health insurance.
Maybe a person has a health insurance plan they have been struggling to pay, but it is important to them and they want to make sure their kids are covered, they want to make sure their spouse is covered. Yet every year they see their premiums going up and up and up.
We remember when President Obama was defending the ObamaCare bill. He promised the American people that as a result of ObamaCare, the average family's health insurance premium would drop $2,500. He said: That is going to happen by the end of my first term. I would point out that the President's first term ended 9 months ago, and by the end of the President's first term, that promise was proven not just a little off the mark, not just kind of sort of a little bit not entirely accurate; it was proven 100 percent, categorically, objectively false.
Let me suggest to every American, if your health insurance premiums have dropped $2,500, as the President promised the average family--so there would be tens of millions for whom that is true--then I would encourage those Americans to enthusiastically stand and defend ObamaCare. But there is a reason it is so profoundly unpopular, and it is because it hasn't happened. Premiums have gone up, and the American people are hurting as a result. So DC should listen to the people. We should make DC listen.
Mr. LEE. Will the Senator yield for a question?
Mr. CRUZ. I am happy to yield for a question without yielding the floor.
Mr. LEE. I wish to ask the Senator from Texas whether he has received comments similar to those I have received from my constituents and from other concerned citizens from around the country in recent months. I wish to highlight a few and ask whether these are similar to comments the Senator from Texas has heard, concerns he has heard expressed.
Let me start by sharing one expressed by Shawn from Utah, who says:
I do not like the fact that the President is picking winners and picking and choosing which parts of the law he will enforce. We need the three branches of government to keep freedom alive.
Well, Shawn from Utah, I share your concern. I would add to that, to Shawn from Utah, the fact that this is really what started this effort. In other words, during the first week of July 2013, when the President announced there were several provisions in the law he simply would not be implementing, he simply would not be enforcing, along the lines of what Congress enacted with the Affordable Care Act in 2010, it was at that point that I and several others put our heads together and realized that if the President is saying this law is not ready to implement, if the law objectively is not ready to implement; if, as we now understand it, the law is going to make health care less affordable rather than more affordable for so many Americans, perhaps Congress shouldn't be funding its implementation and enforcement. Perhaps that ought to be telling us something.
So it is important to remember, as Shawn from Utah points out to us, that we do have three branches of government. This is the legislative branch. Our job is to make the laws. The President does not have law-making authority. The President can seek changes in the law just as other citizens can seek them from Congress, but Congress does have to act.
Although the President wields the veto pen, the veto pen is not the legislation pen. He doesn't have the power to legislate on his own without the assistance of Congress. It is one of the reasons we are in this debacle today. It is one of the reasons we have, along with so many millions of Americans, expressed this position that we would like to fund government while defunding ObamaCare. This is something the American people are calling out for. It is something they are requesting. It is something the House of Representatives acted boldly and bravely in doing, in standing behind the American people. This really is what we are doing. This is the whole reason we are concerned about this, because we want to stand with the American people and with the House leadership, Speaker Boehner and the other leaders in the other body in Congress, who bravely put forward this legislation to keep government funded while defunding ObamaCare.
One of the things we have been concerned about today and one of the things I think we need to focus on over the next few days is the fact that with the House of Representatives acting last week, passing this legislation, this continuing resolution to keep government funded while defunding ObamaCare, in order for us to stand behind them, we have to monitor the manner in which that legislation is reviewed over here.
Now that the House-passed continuing resolution has reached the Senate, we have a few options. There are a few acceptable ways of treating this legislation now that it has been passed by the House. One very acceptable approach would be for us to say: OK, let's bring up the House-passed continuing resolution--the resolution that funds government but defunds ObamaCare--and let's have an up-or-down vote. Let's vote for it as is, the same way it was crafted in the House of Representatives. That would be an acceptable approach. I would be comfortable with that.
Another acceptable approach would be to say: Instead of just taking it up and passing it or not passing it as is, let's have an amendment process. Let's allow Democrats and Republicans as they may deem fit to offer amendments. Let's debate those amendments, discuss their relative merits, the pros and the cons. Let's put those before the American people in the few days we have left before the existing continuing resolution expires, let's vote on all of those, and then at the end of it we will get to the bill itself as it may have been amended by that point. That would be acceptable as well.
What is not acceptable is what many have suggested will occur. Many have suggested that the majority leader will bring up this bill and instead of saying ``let's vote on it as is'' or instead of saying ``let's have an amendment process,'' he apparently wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to have it both ways. He wants to bring it up and subject it to one and only one amendment--an amendment that would strip out a very critical part of the legislation, a part of the legislation that probably is the ``without which not'' element for many of the House Members who voted for it: the provision defunding ObamaCare. He wants that amendment and no other. That is not acceptable, and under that circumstance, in my opinion and in the opinions of several of my colleagues, some of whom we have heard from today, the appropriate way to register that concern is to vote against cloture on the bill if, in fact, that is what the majority leader chooses to do.
That is why we are fighting this particular battle today. That is much of what we are discussing today, is why it is that we should not be facilitating the effort of Senate leadership to, in effect, gut the House-passed continuing resolution of an extraordinarily critical element, an element without which it could never have passed in the House of Representatives and an element which, frankly, the American people expect us to take up and discuss and debate. So either way--an open amendment process,
fine; an up-or-down vote on the bill as is, fine. What is not fine is an effort to try to have it both ways.
Let me share with the Senator from Texas another comment I received from a man named Michael who is also from Utah:
We are getting a bigger and bigger government. They're telling us what we should have, what we are entitled to instead of protecting a free people paving our own path. Government gets bigger while the job market is getting crushed. I work for a company in the middle of layoffs and more are to follow. We can't continue like this.
This is an acknowledgment that so many people across our great country are making as they discover the impact of this bill--passed into law some 3 1/2 years ago--that has not increased in popularity over the last 3 years.
Time might not have increased its popularity--in fact, it has had quite the opposite effect--but time has had the effect of expanding its volume. It has gone from 2,700 pages when it was passed to more than 20,000 pages now when we add the implementing regulations. That is quite stunning. The length of it is quite stunning. It reminds me of something James Madison wrote--I believe it was in Federalist No. 62. He said, if I may paraphrase him, it will be of little benefit to the American people that their laws may be written by individuals of their own choosing if those laws are so voluminous and complex that they can't reasonably be read and understood by the American people. Well, 2,700 pages is a little too long. It is a lot too long. And I certainly know that 20,000 pages is much, much, much too long.
That brings to mind a comment I received from Marcia, also from Utah, who writes this:
However well intentioned Obama care may be, I do not feel this is the best solution. I think something ``less wordy'' and more succinct would be a much better plan. If you can't say it in 5 pages or less, it may be best unsaid! The changes already enacted have made it more difficult for me to get medical care. Not a big help!
Well said, Marcia, very well said.
When we vote on legislation people haven't read, the American people tend to suffer. When we perpetuate a mistake once made embodied in a 2,700-page bill, things go from bad to worse to much, much worse.
What we have right now is an opportunity for us to debate and discuss the merits of something that perhaps was not adequately debated and discussed 3 1/2 years ago when this law was passed, when Members of Congress were told to pass this law to find out what is in it. Well, we know a lot more about what is in it now. The American people have concerns.
It is appropriate to have the discussion now in connection with spending legislation because, after all, Congress does have the power of the purse. Congress is given this power, this responsibility of making decisions regarding taxing and spending. It was for this reason the founding generation wisely put it in the hands of the House of Representatives--the power of the purse--giving the House of Representatives the responsibility to initiate or originate bills relating to this power. It is the House of Representatives that is, after all, the branch of a government and of Congress that is most directly responsive to the needs of the people.
It is appropriate that we have this discussion regarding funding or not funding a piece of legislation that is going to require a lot of money and is going to be proven costly to the American people in many, many ways in the coming years--I say ``costly in many ways'' to reflect the fact that it is not just the cost of government money; it costs the American people a lot of things as well. It is costing them jobs. It is costing them wages. It is costing them access to health care in many circumstances.
Let me read something I received from Randy. Randy is from my neighboring State of Idaho. Randy writes:
My wife and I have a small business with about 20 employees. We struggle to stay in business. We feel that if and when Obamacare is implemented, we will not be able to continue to be in business.
Randy, I can't tell you how many people I have heard make very similar comments from one end of my State of Utah to the other and from people across America. You are not alone, Randy. A lot of people out there are concerned as well.
That is one thing people lose in addition to wages or jobs or access to health care--some of them lose the opportunity they have to stay in business. We are not talking about millionaires and billionaires; we are talking about hard-working Americans who put a lot on the line in order to make a decent living, in order to provide jobs for their few employees. This is something we need to look out for. This is something we may not, we must not lightly brush aside.
Here is something else some Americans will sometimes lose--something they were promised they would not lose--access to a doctor they like, access to a doctor they have come to trust over the years.
This one comes from Jack from the State of Texas. Jack says:
My family doctor of 25 years is talking about an early retirement because of policies Obamacare is going to require him to follow that will compromise the oath he took when he became an M.D.
This is sad, Jack. This is something we were promised would not happen, and it is something that should not happen. This is something that we are told is happening from time to time.
Ryan, also from Texas, writes:
My mother is a middle-class mortician whose health care coverage is going up by 68 percent for this poorly envisioned law with no other changes. She simply cannot afford to maintain health care coverage without significant changes to her lifestyle, and for what?
Sometimes we have to ask that question: And for what?
Sometimes we have to ask the question, the same question that physicians are required to ask themselves: Are we doing harm? It is my understanding that when a physician becomes licensed, he or she must take an oath, an oath that involves an obligation to first do no harm. We as lawmakers have to ask ourselves that question from time to time. We as lawmakers have to view ourselves as subject to a similar obligation to first do no harm.
(Mr. DONNELLY assumed the chair.)
Some have said that when you are carrying around a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. I wonder whether that is sometimes true of Congress and the law-making power. Because of the law-making power we wield, sometimes, when we view problems, we assume we automatically, necessarily, inevitably have the right solutions. Well, in some cases that may be true. In other cases, it might be true in part. But that power might be used incorrectly. Sometimes when legislation is hastily drafted, thrown together in a hurry, rather than for purposes of making sure it is part of a cohesive whole--something that will be a coherent mechanism that can be implemented in a commonsense fashion--sometimes if it is thrown together too hastily and these cautions are ignored, we can end up doing a lot of harm, we can find ourselves first doing harm above all else, and that is not OK.
When we look at this law, and we look at the fact that the American people are funding its implementation, we discover it is much deeper than something that deals with an individual mandate or an employer mandate or a set of regulations governing the insurance industry. It is much more than that. It is much more than what people will have to do with regard to the reporting of some fairly personal details about their lives to the IRS, an agency that Americans have come to trust substantially less than they already did, as if that were possible.
It is about the fact that the American people--in addition to being made less free by this law, and in addition to being made less prosperous by this law--are also required to fund its implementation and its enforcement against them. That is where the power of the purse must come into play. That is what makes it so appropriate, so essential, so vital that we have this discussion right here and right now as we consider spending legislation, spending legislation that may well represent our last best hope of achieving a degree of delay or defunding of this legislation before its primary operative provisions take full effect. That is why it is important for us to have this discussion right now.
Let me emphasize again the importance of the cloture vote and the position we are taking on that. It is grounded fundamentally in the understanding that the House of Representatives acted in a manner consistent with what the American people have been asking. I cannot emphasize enough the fact that House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team in the House--the House Republicans have supported him in this effort. They did great work. They stood valiantly with the American people who were calling out overwhelmingly for them to take this step, to keep government funded but defund ObamaCare. And that is what they did.
Now that they have acted, there are two approaches we could take to this that are perfectly appropriate. We could vote on that legislation as is, up or down, or we could subject it to an amendment process, allow Democrats and Republicans alike to present amendments to make the House-passed resolution better, as they might deem fit. We can debate and discuss and vote on each of those. Sure, it can be time-consuming. Sure, it can be grueling. But that is our job. We took an oath to do that job. We do this all the time--maybe not as much as we should. But a few months ago in connection with the budget resolution, we as Senators stood and sat--a little of both--here all night long. We voted all night long, until 5 o'clock in the morning. People got a little cranky at times, but that is what we are here to do--not to be cranky, but we are here to vote, to cast votes on amendments. That is what we had to do that day because there were a lot of amendments. That is what we should be doing with this if, in fact, we decide we want amendments to the House-passed resolution.
So vote on it up or down as is; fine. Subject it to an open amendment process; fine. Trying to have it both ways, the majority leader telling us this will be subject to one amendment, one amendment only--an amendment that would gut and render nugatory the operative provision that was so important to so many House Members--that is not OK. That is why those who agree with us on this point, those who feel that way, those who feel the American people need us to stand up for them, should vote no on cloture when we get to the cloture vote on the bill later in this week.
I would ask my colleague from Texas, as to these concerns I have expressed, these statements that have been made from people around the country--some of them my constituents in Utah, some of them from other parts of the country, including a couple from Texas--what similarities does the Senator see between these statements I have read today and comments the Senator has heard from his constituents as he has traveled through his great State, a State of great expanse and a State of close to 30 million people? What similarities does the Senator see between these statements and those he has heard around his State?
Mr. CRUZ. I thank my friend from Utah for that very insightful question. Let me note there are many reasons why I love the Senator from Utah. But very near the top of the list is the fact that when he ``paraphrases'' the Federalist Papers, it is darn near a word-for-word, verbatim quote. Mike Lee is extraordinary and it is an honor to stand by his side and serve with him. The stories he has read are exactly consonant with the stories I have heard all across Texas and, frankly, all across the country. This thing is not working. It is not political. It is not partisan. It has nothing to do with what team you are on. The facts are clear. There is a reason why the unions are jumping ship. There is a reason why Teamsters President James Hoffa says ObamaCare is destroying the 40-hour workweek that is the backbone of the American middle class. There is a reason why the IRS employees union has asked to be exempted from ObamaCare. These are the guys who are in charge of enforcing it on the rest of us. They have asked to be exempt because it is not working. The facts are clear. It is a train wreck. As the lead author Democratic Senator put it: It is a train wreck.
In fact, let me share some of the tweets that have come in the preceding days. In the preceding days, the American people had a chance to speak out about ObamaCare and in particular there was a hashtag ``Defund